Milian was a voice for freedom and tolerance in a city that hasn't always understood those words. In 1976 terrorists tried to silence Milian by planting a bomb under his car. He survived the blast but lost both legs. "Six months after the bombing he walked out of a hospital on artificial legs," Milian's son Alberto noted during the eulogy to his father, who died March 15. "No warrior stood taller that day." But the bombing alone did not define Milian's life. He did that himself through word and deed, praying for a free Cuba but never accepting the notion that the goal justified employing the same tactics of fear and repression Castro uses to keep the island enslaved. In the final months of his life, his body began to fail him, but his spirit never faltered. And now, in death, his voice may at last be silenced, but his memory lives on as an inspiration.
How can an AM station be best, you ask? This could be a comment on the state of things on your highly predictable, highly commercial FM dial. But another reason is that many of us in Miami-Dade are living in the past, in more ways than one. For example the First Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution in 1791, but many of us need a constant reminder that it still exists, especially when the words "Fidel Castro" are uttered. That's where WOCN comes in. It is the only Cuban-dominated AM station to offer a range of opinion from left to right. "We believe in freedom of speech," explains Richard Vega, who owns this station along with his father and uncle. "A lot of people in this town don't understand it." This is the station that airs the ironically titled Ayer en Miami (Yesterday in Miami), hosted by First Amendment freak Francisco Aruca, who operates a charter airline that flies to Cuba. Aruca is a loquacious opponent of the U.S. embargo against the island, which means that each day when he opens the phone lines, he confronts an onslaught of hecklers with no interest in dialogue but a great desire to shout obscenities and imitate gross bodily functions. Unlike radio hosts on other AM stations, Alvaro Sanchez Cifuentes has the gall to support diversity of opinion on his show, Transición (Transition), in which guests with different points of view discuss a panoply of issues regarding local and Cuban affairs. But being best in this cultural crossroads means broadening your ideological bandwidth and ethnic horizons. Hence, Vega notes, "Right-wing Nicaraguans are on the weekend." From 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. the station broadcasts an ever-meandering stream of programming aimed at the Haitian community.
For more than fifteen years, the creative-writing program at Florida International University has been producing one of the more lively and interesting reading series in South Florida. Housed at the North Campus of FIU, the series runs in the spring and fall of each year and is free and open to the public. Among the authors who have recently attended are the distinguished poets Maureen Seaton, Rebecca McClanahan, and Lorna Goodison, and novelists Bruce Jay Friedman, Miles Harvey, and Andrea Barrett.

Sixteen years after its original publication, Up for Grabs has been returned to print by the University Press of Florida, and it is as relevant as ever. As its author, John Rothchild, notes in the freshly written afterword to this enlightening local history, anyone pining for a more innocent era of our city's development needs to get a clue: "Miami rolled out the red carpet for Al Capone in the 1920s, became a playground for retired mobsters in the 1940s, was the target of a Senate crime committee in the 1950s, allowed bookies to operate openly in the lobbies of beachfront hotels in the 1960s, produced Watergate burglars in the 1970s, embraced the drug trade in the 1980s, and hosted the corruption epidemics of the 1990s." But forget about trying to pin all this chicanery on any one ethnic group or the elite. Rothchild offers a more compelling rationale for our hometown's ongoing loopiness: It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature. He reminds us that upon its founding, much of Miami was swampland, while Miami Beach was entirely manmade -- a strip of sand dredged from the ocean's bottom. Both common sense and the cosmos suggest that we just weren't meant to live here. Our city is a living testament to man's folly in the name of year-round sunshine and real estate speculation. And here you thought it was just something in the water.

Very early on in The Devil's Music, Miche Braden belted out a low blues note to let everyone know this woman is not just an actress; she's also a phenomenal singer. But Braden's acting was the real prize. The range of her characterization was sassy, wise, bitter, and flirtatious. She was inexhaustible, singing thirteen gut-wrenching tunes in 90 minutes with no intermissions or scene changes. Her stamina and heartbreaking blues lent so many dimensions to the character of Bessie Smith, giving her the stage presence of a diva and the theatricality of a broken woman. As rare as it is to find a talented actress who also happens to have a voice like Bessie Smith's, Braden's exceptional performance proves it is possible.

Miami theater is as alive and thriving en español as it is in English. From the reputable Teatro Avante to the burgeoning number of small theaters on SW Eighth Street, there's much to be said for local Spanish-language theater. But this season director Rolando Moreno's Spanish adaptation of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire took the prize. La Ultima Parada gave theatergoers a taste of what challenging theater can do when teamed with excellent acting. Transplanting Williams's streetcar of Southern decadence to Guantánamo, Cuba, circa 1970, La Ultima Parada turned decadence into misogyny and the tradition of Latin-American machismo into an intriguing pendulum of sexuality. Actors Carlos Caballero and Alexa Kuve stood out for their raw emotionalism as Guantánamo Bay's Stanley and Stella. The play was at times colloquially hilarious and at other times heartbreaking, but above all it provided Spanish-speaking audiences with an unflinching closeup of Castro's postrevolutionary wasteland. La Ultima Parada also featured Vivian Ruiz, Evelio Taillacq, Maria Hernandez, Hugo Garcia, Gerardo Riveron, and Ricardo Ponte.

Miami's Spanish-language talk radio all too often suffers from a conformity that ill serves listeners, and from analysis that could more accurately be described as propaganda. For these reasons Col. Matias Farias's shows on weekday mornings and Thursday evenings are so refreshing. Where else on Spanish-language radio could one hear Commissioner Jimmy Morales dissect the Marlins stadium deal or listen in to frank talk about who will really benefit from the Latin Grammys coming to Miami? Farias's life is the stuff of novels. He escaped Cuba in a stolen crop-duster. After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, he joined the U.S. Air Force. He served in Vietnam and Laos, teaching military intelligence. While with the Southern Command in Panama he struck up a friendship with Gen. Manuel Noriega. Farias retired from the air force a full colonel in 1990. In addition to his radio duties, he consults on political campaigns both here and abroad. When this background comes to bear on political events in Miami, the result is an insight on which listeners have to come to rely.
Broadcasting sports news to Cuba exclusively, which is Edemio Nava's job description, has to be a uniquely challenging task. Radio Martí's mission as a U.S. government station is to provide the people of Cuba with unbiased information not available to them in the state-controlled media. Often that information is about Cuban sports heroes who once were celebrated in the media but now are ignored because they defected. Yet they remain heroes on the island. Thus Nava works in a peculiarly two-faced world, bringing news to the island about figures who officially no longer exist in their own nation. He is well qualified for this unique job, having a broad familiarity with sports and sports heroes both inside and outside the island.
This past season, every time a set caught the eye as aesthetically pleasing or clever, it was inevitably one of Rich Simone's creations. Simone's sets always seem to help bridge the gap between the audience and the actors, using the stage not only as a meeting point but also as a point of departure. Most recently his specialty seemed to be setting the mood for licentiousness, adultery, and other forms of sexual high jinks, as he did in Miracle Theatre's Things We Do for Love, and GableStage's The Real Thing. In Things We Do for Love Simone created a three-story home perfect for the bawdy upstairs/downstairs humor that British playwright Alan Ayckbourn had in mind when he wrote this farce about a nympho, a soon-to-be spinster, a drunkard, and a vegetarian. Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing had a more sophisticated design (clean lines and streamlined contemporary furnishings) for this more erudite group of lovers (also British, come to think of it). Simone cleverly made use of upstage space to depict the playwright's play within a play.
This year Ray Lockhart proved that maybe you can trick the Devil, but you can't fool an audience. As Lem, the man who murdered Robert Johnson, Lockhart was not only pivotal to the play's denouement but also essential to the emotional chemistry onstage. Portraying a long-absent and embittered husband, Lockhart filled M Ensemble's tiny set with the emotional intensity and stage presence of a man who has spent the past few years splitting rocks and returns to find his wife bedding down with a handsome, mysterious stranger. Lockhart's raw physicality and confident stage presence elevated the quality of this drama immensely, without overshadowing the rest of the cast. Finding the balance between rage and passion, this quarry worker turned out to be the gem in this bitter tragedy.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®