They are the children of the Cuban exiles who formed modern Miami, and they are among those who will shape the future of the United States. There also is the possibility they will play leading roles in a future Cuba. But regardless of how things shake out in their ancestral home, Garcia and Ugalde are a force to be reckoned with here and now. Garcia, as many in both Miami and Washington, D.C., are aware, is the new executive director and long-time spokesman for the Cuban American National Foundation. He has been active in politics for a good part of his 37 years, and no doubt his political star will continue to ascend. Ugalde, Garcia's wife of nine years, has been less publicly visible though no less accomplished. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard with a law degree from the University of Miami, she served for six years as associate general counsel for UM. This past February she moved into the spotlight when she was named senior advisor to Donna Shalala, the new University of Miami president and former secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration.
The county's architectural, cultural, and environmental heritage is precious and should be preserved. At least what's left of it should be preserved. For the past 25 years, the Dade Heritage Trust has worked to save historic sites (the Cape Florida lighthouse, the Miami Circle), restore historic properties, improve historic neighborhoods, and instill a sense of place and community in Miami's diverse environment. One of the trust's best functions is its annual Dade Heritage Days, a two-month spring celebration of Miami's cultural heritage that gives residents a chance to experience a bit of where their neighbors are coming from. The celebration includes hikes through the county's wild places, evenings of contemplating Haitian art or Miami Beach architecture, Miami River boat rides, and tours of the Miami Circle, Stiltsville, and the Biltmore Hotel. The list goes on.

-- Miami mayoral spokesman Jay Rhodes, reassuring the public that everything was fine, even though his boss, Joe Carollo, had just spent the night in jail on domestic-violence charges.
Thanks to the work of Barbara Stein, this 54-year-old landmark is in the final phase of a seven-million-dollar renovation that will return the Miracle Theatre to its former glory. For Stein this has been a labor of love since 1995. Along with her husband, Stein founded the Actors' Playhouse theater company in Kendall thirteen years ago but eventually relocated to Coral Gables and the Miracle Theatre. In addition to her dedication, the key to this project has been Stein's ability to persuade local companies to donate their time and services to the restoration effort. While preserving the historic nature of the building, the theater is being divided into three parts. The main theater seats 600 people; on the second floor a special children's theater, called the Balcony, can hold as many as 300 tykes and their parents. There also are plans for a more intimate black-box stage setting, which will cater to audiences of between 75 and 100.
While serving as the nation's first female attorney general, Reno appointed special prosecutors six times to investigate top officials in the Clinton administration, more than any other attorney general before her. Yes, she botched the raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, where more than 80 people died. And snatching Elian from his relatives in Little Havana didn't win her friends back home among Miami's Cuban community. But it's the way Reno left office that said something about where her heart lies. The former U.S. Attorney General bought a used pickup truck to tour the country, returned to the house her mama built by hand in 1947, and made plans to kayak the 100-mile Wilderness Waterway from Everglades City to Flamingo in Everglades National Park. Welcome home. Relax. Enjoy.

There is something pleasantly dreamlike and unreal about Black Point Marina. It's an improbable mix of natural and human construction. On some sea charts the area is known as "the featherbeds." Dog walkers have been known to meet crocodiles on Black Point's walkways. To the south looms the region's only peak, Mount Trashmore. At the marina's dockside restaurant and bar, the Pirate's Den, the beer runs cold, the food is passable, and customers can down pitchers while watching herons fish. A 1.5-mile jetty path that juts into the bay is the perfect place for a stroll afterward. Couples spread blankets on the grass. Families picnic and fish. Manmade Miami is rarely this peaceful.

This past November, when Delfin Gonzalez announced he had bought the modest Little Havana home where Elian stayed, and that he planned on turning it into a shrine, some people thought it would only serve to perpetuate -- even institutionalize -- the tensions that had split the community into warring factions. But that evening, when the winning numbers came up on the Florida lottery, even skeptics had to pause. Maybe the kid does have some kind of supernatural powers after all. The Cash Four drawing paid off $5000 to 192 players who picked the numbers 2319. The Cash Three drawing paid $500 to 913 people who picked 023. Even the number of people who won were combinations of Elian's address. Now what was that story about dolphins saving the boy's life?
Leave the enormous helium-filled cartoon characters to those big-budget department-store spectacles in major metropolitan areas. The little City of North Miami's parade, which has plodded along NE 125th Street every Thanksgiving morning for the past 26 years, offers a satisfying sampling of marching bands, floats, classic cars, cheerleaders, baton twirlers, clowns, costumed characters, and Shriners. Topping things off: a local celebrity grand marshal (past honorees have included a former football player, astronaut, and news anchor). And lest we forget, Santa Claus. Naturally it's all free, but that's not all. In addition to hailing the day to give thanks and marking the start of the Christmas season, this quaint procession ushers in the WinterNational Festival, three days of family-oriented fun featuring food, music, arts and crafts, carnival rides, and sometimes even fake snow. Yes, fake. After all, this is South Florida.
Almost 80 years after John and Zada Schleucher founded a program to help Miami's poor, the Miami Rescue Mission is still serving "soup, soap, and salvation" to the city's lost souls. The mission has grown into a multifaceted facility featuring residential programs for men and women, a thrift store, an education center, and a companion operation in Broward County. Every day the mission's Men's Center on NW First Avenue serves a hot meal at both lunch and dinner to about 200 men, women, and children. The lunch, however, isn't free. Those who wish to eat must first attend a religious service in the mission's chapel. Although that may turn off some people, it makes others feel as though someone has helped the whole man rather than just filled his stomach. At least that's what Horace says as he eats a lunch of beans and rice, salad, cabbage, cookies, and chocolate milk. An ex-addict who has been in the Rescue Mission's residential program for a year, Horace adds optimistically that in three more months he'll be back on his feet, working as a long-distance truck driver. The Miami Rescue Mission helped make that possible when he had nowhere else to turn.
Maybe it's the unobstructed view of the Intracoastal Waterway one gets driving along this winding strip of road that connects Bay Harbor Islands to North Miami. Perhaps it's the fact that, with relatively little traffic coming through, the tollbooth operators will take not only your money but the time to wish you a nice day or a good evening. Whatever the reason we don't mind that it costs 50 cents each way. Really.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®