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BEST LOCAL BOY MADE HEAVEN Miami 2004 - Luis Botifoll

When Luis Botifoll passed away last September at the age of 95, he left behind a 44-year legacy of community activism unmatched by any one man -- and that's just the story on this side of the Florida Straits. Twice exiled to the U.S. and a graduate of Tulane University, Botifoll was a lawyer and well-respected newspaper publisher in Havana before fleeing in 1960. He immediately went to work on the problems facing the exile community here in its new "temporary" home. Perhaps his greatest impact was felt not in publishing or law, but in banking. In 1970 he joined Republic National Bank, where, with remarkable foresight, he saw to it that Cuban exiles with impressive credentials but little credit history in Miami received business loans other banks denied them. Within a few short years the community vibrated with new growth; the bank prospered as well. (Lesson: A little well-directed money can go a long way to help people.) Botifoll later turned his attention to building bridges among South Florida's sometimes contentious ethnic groups. He also proved to be a wizard at raising money for many organizations, including United Way and the University of Miami. Age seemed not to slow him down at all. He died a few hours after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, a session devoted to local community issues, of course. Next year in La Habana, amigo.

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