In 2000, citing a fiscal crisis, the city unloaded the property to affordable housing developers, who knocked it down within a year. Llanes and Graham sadly attended the demolition in 2001, recording it on camera. It is still called the Bobby Maduro Stadium. Or rather, the Bobby Maduro Stadium Apartments.
"The developers wanted tax credits for the stadium's historic value, but they were just going to knock it down. They told the city commission they would build a museum," said Llanes, with bitterness. No museum is in evidence today.
Llanes put his footage in a box. He estimated he had amassed hundreds of hours. Then, late last year, he met Joe Cardona, owner of local documentary production company Kids in Exile Films. The history of Miami Stadium and Jose Aleman resonated with Cardona and his coworkers, who have produced numerous films about the Cuban exile experience. Joining forces with Llanes, they began interviewing more people, such as a pair of elderly barbers in Overtown who recalled attending games during segregation. The story of the Miami stadium, they realized, went far beyond the Cuban-American experience.
"It's a complete Miami story," Llanes said. "You rarely get that."
Thus encouraged, he bankrolled the documentary through donations from friends and family. White Elephant will premiere at Little Havana's Tower Theater on May 12. He hopes the movie will be viewed as more than mere historic documentation. There are plenty of structures around Miami facing the same fate as the Bobby Maduro Stadium.
Some, like the Hialeah Racetrack, are privately owned. Others, like Miami Marine Stadium and the Orange Bowl, are in the hands of the City of Miami and are slowly falling apart. In one hopeful case, megadeveloper Pedro Martin recently donated the Freedom Tower former home of the Miami News and the emotional equivalent of Ellis Island for many Cuban-Americans who were processed there to Miami Dade College. The college has pledged to rehabilitate it into a museum with classroom space.
But for Llanes a question remains: "What happens to these places that are wonderful, beautiful places that have no relevance?" For him, structures are inextricably linked to the stories of those who inhabited them. When you lose one, you often lose the other.
For more on the history of Bobby Maduro Stadium, see "Rough Diamond," by Robert Andrew Powell on Miaminewtimes.com.