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.
La Experiencia Crankshaft
If right wing Pavel Bure remains the Panthers' superstar, a goal addict forever in search of his next fix, then center Viktor Kozlov serves as his pusher. Kozlov, who skates with Bure on the team's number one line, feeds a steady supply of dazzling passes toward his Russian countryman. Kozlov is the best stick handler in the league. The attention defenders must give to his powerful wrist shot creates opportunities Bure is skilled at exploiting. Not that Kozlov can't score on his own; during the 1999-2000 season, he set personal bests in goals, assists, and points. A nagging shoulder injury kept his numbers down this season, but when he's healthy and in the lineup, he, Bure, and the rest of the team all play at their best.
The past year has provided uplifting proof that there is no shortage of locals willing to risk their lives to help others in a uniquely South Florida jam: rescuing people who have driven off the road into a canal. Remember these heroes next time you hear someone badmouthing Miami and its rude citizens.

•November 4, 2000: Four Miami-Dade police officers -- Eduardo Garcia, Will Sanchez, Pedro Polo, and James McDonnell -- dived into a canal at SW Seventh Street and 122nd Avenue to rescue a nineteen-year-old woman trapped in her sinking Nissan. The car was submerged when the officers reached it. "She had been holding her breath, and by the time we'd gotten there she was on her last breath," Garcia told the Miami Herald.

•December 7, 2000: Off-duty Hialeah police Lt. Joe DeJesus jumped into a canal on Griffin Road in Broward at 11:00 p.m. to rescue a woman whose van had veered off the road. She was unhurt.

•January 12, 2001: Hialeah residents Jim Gentilesco, Jr., and Rene Abreu jumped into a canal at West 44th Place and Fourth Avenue when they saw a 40-year-old woman's car slip into the water.

•January 14, 2001: Hans Schaefer, Eduardo Suarez, and his father, Eduardo Suarez, Sr., swam to the bottom of a murky canal off NW 137th Avenue and 104th Street to reach a woman whose car had plunged into the water.

Best Spanish-Language Radio Personality

Matias Farias

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.
Miami International Airport
The smart flier used to love Fort Lauderdale's airport. Whereas Miami's airport is chaotic and crowded, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International was almost shockingly easy to navigate. Short-term parking was easy to find, so picking up and dropping off were a breeze. Long-term parking cost only three bucks per day. But Broward officials have made the tragic decision to buff up their airport, to make it more "world class." So far they've succeeded in making it more closely resemble MIA or even LaGuardia in its unwieldiness. Traffic now snakes around pylons erected to support a new terminal. Parking prices have increased across the board. Unwelcome stress has been added to the pickup and dropoff process. And inside the place, ceiling tiles are missing and escalators are shut down as workers labor to redesign terminals that were just fine the way they were. So forget it. From now on we're just taking a cab to MIA.

He has a World Series ring -- a ring he won with the Marlins. He has four consecutive gold gloves. More than anyone else he will be responsible for harnessing the exciting young pitching talent the team has stockpiled. He's improving as a batsman. He's a Marlin by choice, signing a free-agent contract with Florida at well below his market value. He was the first draft pick in team history. His return is a very real reminder that the Marlins are on the right track -- if not yet worthy of the World Series, then at least headed the right way.
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.

Best Vertically Challenged Basketball Player

A.J. Castro

Southwest Miami High School's boys basketball team, led by five-foot eight-inch point guard A.J. Castro, gave its win-starved fans much to cheer about this year. After decades of lackluster seasons, the Eagles squad tallied a 22-7 record, upsetting perennial powerhouses and reaching the county finals for Class 6A play. At one point the gutsy Cinderella team was ranked second in the state. At the heart of the dream season was the team's fast and slippery playmaker Castro, who frustrated many a taller opponent. On the court he is fearless, taking control with lightning-quick passes, nervy rebounds, and wicked three-point shots. And he has a knack for scoring when the team needs it most. During the Eagles' final regular-season game against their district rivals, the South Miami Cobras, Castro whooshed an arching three-pointer that won it for the Eagles as the clock ticked off its final second. The short guy was named to the first-string all-state team by the Florida Sportswriters Association, the McDonald's All-American Team, and the county all-star roster. Not bad for a scrappy Cuban kid from the burbs. He's a senior now, and when he accepts that scholarship to Cornell, as expected, the hoops around Westchester will never be the same.

Drag queens are like birthday cakes: layered and coated with thick frosting painstakingly applied to evoke strong reactions. The cake most full of surprises in this town full of queens is Ivana, the shiny-lipped, bawdy broad from Buenos Aires. When she struts atop the bar at Cactus in white hot pants and go-go boots, be prepared for an onslaught of camel-toe jokes from a girl who is just about ready to bust out of her own outfit. Try as she might to be classy, whiskey-voiced Ivana can't help it. If her lip-synching to saccharine pop is a little off, her sense of timing when she emcees her shows in Spanish is fierce. Watch her sparks fly Friday nights at Ozone and Saturday nights with Adora at Cactus.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®