Over Her Dead Body

When tens of thousands turn out to say goodbye to Celia Cruz, Miami's Cuban-American elite is reminded that it's La Negra who's got political clout

Two hours later, after the hearse drives away carrying Celia's casket to Gesu Church, a handful of disappointed fans lingers outside the Freedom Tower in the fading light, picking flowers from the extravagant arrangements that flank the front door, now unguarded. Alan Paul and Bonny Thompson sit on the wall just outside the entrance to the Freedom Tower, dangling their legs and watching the flower pickers. Thompson, a slim Bahamian who lives in Broward, is quiet beneath her straw hat. Paul, a burly African-American firefighter who drove down for the wake from Jacksonville, marvels at what has just transpired. "To see white Cubans do this for people of color is incredible," he says. "White Americans don't do this for black people. Black people don't do this for black people." He shakes his head. "For every black American not to be here today is really sad."

To cheer himself up, he goads Thompson, "C'mon, say it!"

Thompson blushes, then growls: "Azucar!" Satisfied, Paul pronounces: "This is history in the making."

Steve Satterwhite
Steve Satterwhite

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