This Land Is Their Mine

Rock miners are prepared to dig near the Everglades.

This Land Is Their Mine

Filed under: News

He gets an A: Ilan Wilson-Soler, a 16-year-old student at DASH, created this much-talked-about masterpiece for Art Basel.
Marco Kornfeld
He gets an A: Ilan Wilson-Soler, a 16-year-old student at DASH, created this much-talked-about masterpiece for Art Basel.

Get ready for some major, and maybe environmentally lethal, limestone excavation near the Everglades. To the dismay of homeowner and eco-activists, five rock mining companies have filed for permits with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to extract limestone from more than 7,500 acres of protected wetlands. "It's like the return of Jason and Freddie Krueger," says Miami Lakes Councilman Michael Pizzi, a longtime opponent of the rock mining industry. "I find it terrifying."

The companies seeking permission to dig are Florida Rock Industries, Kendall Properties and Investments, Tarmac America, Rinker Materials of Florida, and White Rock Industries, all of which promise to pay the state to create wetlands elsewhere in the county to replace the land lost to mining.

The permit requests come at a time when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is seeking public input for its study on the impact of rock mining on Miami-Dade's drinking water. If the rock miners' plans are approved by state regulators, they would carve out lake craters totaling nearly 12 square miles, almost the size of Coral Gables.

Earlier this summer, Miami-based U.S. Judge William Hoeveler ruled in favor of three environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, which had sued the Corps, the Miami-Dade Limestone Association, and seven companies to halt excavation on 5,400 acres of wetlands. Hoeveler found the proposed mining to be a threat to the drinking water supply for one million Miami-Dade residents and that it would destroy thousands of acres of irreplaceable Everglades wildlife habitat.

Kerri Barsch, a spokeswoman for White Rock and Tarmac, disputes Pizzi's assertion that more rock mining would have a disastrous impact on the community. She also says there is no guarantee the environmental protection department would approve every new permit. "The regulatory agencies will evaluate all the information and make the determination to what extent more mining is in the public interest."

"We haven't even begun to study the impact of rock mining on our water supply," says Pizzi. "The rock miners are undaunted in their pursuit of making money." Francisco Alvarado


Cuba 101

Filed under: Blog of the Day

There's a plenitude of grizzled cigar-suckers lending their play-by-play to Cuban politics. Twenty-one-year-old Monica Simo, who grew up in Miami and works as a banking analyst in New York City, hopes to add some youth to the conversation.

She recently started La Primera Generación (laprimerageneracion.blogspot.com), where she's been documenting her personal and endearing quest for answers about Cuba. "What better way to learn from people who are passionate enough about the issues to scour the Internet every day? I know I'm incredibly naive (and honestly I think that's part of the charm ...)," she writes.

In her first post, Simo says her Cuban family never really took time to educate her about Cuba: "Sure, I knew 'Cuba sí, Castro no,' but that was about it.... When I was 13 and Elián was all over the news, I was just one of maybe two Cubans in the classroom. When the topic came up in civics class, I couldn't defend myself against the rednecks from Homestead."

Simo, who studied at MIT, told Riptide that once Cuban-Americans leave Miami, "we are advocates of the Cuban plight, whether we like it or not." By talking about restrictions in Cuba, she hopes to persuade her friends in the chilly Northeast to stop buying Cuban cigars or finding ways to sneak getaways to the island.

"Without me, they probably wouldn't have had any idea," she says. "In some cases, we may have to defend our views. Like I mentioned in one of my first posts, back in Miami all I knew was 'Cuba sí, Castro no.' Outside of Miami, that's not enough to sway anyone." Janine Zeitlin


Torture Artist

Filed under: Culture

Riptide tracked down Ilan Wilson-Soler, one of Art Basel's most talked-about artists, through the principal's office at Design and Architecture Senior High. The 16-year-old is a graphic design major there. We wanted to know more about the work that had the art community abuzz.

Ilan sketched the piece — a life-size replica of the iconic Abu Ghraib photo of a prisoner in a hood and robe, attached to electrical wires — created the work in wood with his father, and then painted it in colorful Romero Britto-style patterns. Ilan attached low-voltage neon wires to a generator and cut a hole in the head so people could poke their faces through, like an amusement at Disney World.

Ilan and his dad, Todd Wilson (also an artist and a furniture maker), took the wood sculpture around town during Art Basel as a kind of interactive guerrilla performance piece. On Friday, December 7, they set up in the valet parking area of Art Nexus on Watson Island — and were promptly kicked out. "It got a pretty bad reception. The lady in charge didn't understand it," says Ilan, still incredulous. "She said, 'I'm a fan of Britto, and this isn't a real Britto. '"

The woman — Ilan didn't know her name — unplugged the generator and called security. "I went into my First Amendment routine," says Todd. "And the giant security guys said, 'We don't know about that.'"

Ilan explains his art: "It's a play on the art scene in Miami. It's mostly controlled by the people who have enough money but don't know anything about art." He says the piece was also a statement about the war — how Americans put a happy face on everything as we do terrible things in other countries.

Eventually the cops arrived and exiled Ilan and his dad to a nearby field. The next evening the pair was met with less resistance. They set up on NE Second Avenue in the Design District, near Ilan's school.

"He was very frustrated after Friday night," says Todd. "But I thought it was a great lesson for him. If you're going to make art so that people get it, then don't do art. Real artists don't set out to make things people understand." Tamara Lush

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