Stop where you are. Take a look around you. In a city like Miami it's likely that one of the people you observe will have a story to tell involving escape, desperation, political exile, starvation, and a dangerous journey to freedom. If you happen to be hanging out in Sweetwater or Little Havana, Westchester or North Miami, the chances are tripled that someone nearby has tales that would frighten the Nintendo controls out of the hands of your everyday suburbanite.
That's part of the beauty and wonder of living in a city of expats. The political turmoil in any given part of the world has a direct line to our surroundings. Honduran torture survivors open shops along Biscayne Boulevard. The children of Haitian political prisoners study at Miami Dade College. Sandinista rebels embrace capitalism with a catering company in Hialeah. Former victims of the Shining Path jam at Peruvian joints in Kendall.
So it goes in our little swamp.
Among the most powerful stories you'll hear are those of crossing the Florida Straits in rinky-dink vessels and rafts. Refugees from Haiti and Cuba, even the Dominican Republic, who have made the crossing and managed to get out of Krome Detention Center walk among us. Chances are they toil in your pod. The residue of Elian Gonzalez, perhaps the iconic tale of the watery journey to freedom, still remains, a tragicomic testament to the power of a human story.
Today Marc Joseph, a former therapist at Krome, and UM professor Holly Ackerman, who researched the plight of Cuban refugees, discuss the perilous crossing that many have survived and many others have died attempting. The forum, Crossing the Florida Straits: Personal Experiences of Migration by Sea, is part of the "Shipwrecks and Rescues: 1550-2000" exhibit at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.