Cernuda Arte
In 1988 Ramon Cernuda presided over an auction of paintings held at the Cuban Museum of Art and Culture. The works were created by Cuban artists who had not broken with the Castro regime. The new owner of Manuel Mendive's Pavo Real promptly stepped outside and set it ablaze in the presence of cheering protesters. (Twice the museum was severely damaged by bombs.) A year later the feds accused Cernuda of purchasing Cuban art in violation of the embargo; they raided his Brickell Avenue condo and confiscated 240 paintings. A federal judge angrily denounced the seizure and ordered the works returned. Today the backsides of those paintings display U.S. Treasury/Customs Service seals, the same ones used to label intercepted drugs. Who would have thought that eleven years later, Cernuda would be opening an art gallery specializing in Cuban art from the island, smack in the middle of Coral Gables. This past fall Cernuda Arte made its debut with an exhibition of Cuban originals by masters such as Amelia Pelaez, Wifredo Lam, and Carlos Enriquez. Currently the gallery represents six working artists. Two of them, Demi and Sinuhé Vega, are based in Miami. The others create in Cuba. They are Flora Fong, Juan Roberto Diago, Alfredo Sosabravo, and Rigoberto Pelaez. "We are very open about what we do," Cernuda says. Boy, have times changed.
Not only did our friends at WTVJ-TV (Channel 6) abandon South Florida's first television studio -- conveniently located across from the federal courthouse in downtown Miami -- to better bring us gripping developments from Plantation City Hall, and not only did they leave a physical and metaphorical black hole downtown, they also desecrated the structural shell they left behind. On their last day in Miami, staffers pulled out markers and paint and graffittied their historic studio's walls. There's symbolism here, none of it particularly appreciated.

"Oooh!" our car squealed as a young Cuban fellow yanked open her doors and began vacuuming nooks and crannies she didn't even remember having. They'd been crudded up that long. Somehow he's able to distinguish and therefore not throw away the valuables lost in a thick layer of gym clothes, fast-food bags, spilled laundry detergent, and work papers we meant to take home but have actually been ferrying around town for weeks. Car-wash packages range from $9 to $19, and detailing services run $30 to $40. We chose the $11.95 premium wash, which includes something called "wheel bright." Inside the building there's a long hallway with windows so you can satisfy that voyeuristic urge to watch the pressurized water and soap blasting off the bird droppings and thick layer of road dust covering the windows. The waiting room is cool, sufficiently stocked with coffee, soda machines, an ice cream freezer, and a stand supporting bags of plantain chips. The television gets remarkably clear reception and is perpetually tuned to lurid but alluring telenovelas. Hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and Sunday. On Saturday it's 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
All you need is a sense of adventure and a willingness to get a little dirty. Need a chair? A bookcase? An African mask? Who knows what you'll discover in the stylish home-furnishings center of Miami. Sneak around the back alleys, lift a lid, hoist yourself up, and peer inside. One advantage: There are practically no restaurants here (apologies to Piccadilly Garden and Buena Vista Café), so you won't be wading through rotting foodstuffs. For an added adrenaline rush, there's the risk of being questioned by a police officer who thinks it's mighty strange you're doing this. You may or may not be asked to leave, depending upon whether the Dumpster is on city or private property. And should you find something worth keeping, you'll have a nice little story to tell.

Last December the school board brushed aside a proposal by its maverick member, Marta Perez, to create an ethics commission that would act as a watchdog over the district. Why? Millions squandered on questionable land purchases. Fortunes spent to settle sexual-harassment lawsuits. Administrators with diploma-mill degrees. Overcrowded classrooms. Underpaid teachers. Unwelcome parents. But in rejecting the measure, Perez's colleagues argued that they didn't need an ethics commission because there weren't any problems. Now, that takes chutzpah.
Miami actually is controlled by a secret cabal of gay Cuban men known as Los Pollos Tropicales. (All right, we made up the name, but we're pretty sure about the rest of it.)

What more is there to say than "farewell"?
"There is a substantial likelihood that the “Cuba Affidavit' will be found unconstitutional," Moreno declared in a seventeen-page ruling in May of last year. And with that he suspended the so-called Cuba ordinance, which required that anyone conducting business with Miami-Dade County sign a document vowing not to transact business with Cuba or with any business that conducts business with Cuba. The most prominent targets, however, were county-funded activities that brought musicians and artists from the island. Moreno put the handwriting on the wall in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Miami Light Project, GableStage, Teatro La Ma Teodora, and concert promoters Hugo Cancio and Debbie Ohanian. At the time the U.S. Supreme Court was reviewing a similarly repressive Massachusetts state law targeting business dealings, including cultural exchanges, with the repressive regime in Myanmar (the country once known as Burma). When the justices nixed that law in June of last year, Moreno dutifully followed suit with a pro-forma edict declaring the Cuba ordinance unconstitutional. Poof! County lawyers vanished from the courtroom without argument. Soon the highly uncomfortable (but constitutionally protected) rhetorical contortions performed by the ordinance's defenders, including county commissioners Javier Souto and Miriam Alonso, Mayor Alex Penelas, and lawyer Victor Diaz, also disappeared from view. There is, however, a substantial likelihood that some of them still believe it makes sense to oppose a dictator by thinking like one.

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Best Of Miami®