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.
Winds blows, storms flood, drought plagues, citrus canker rages, Elian goes home, Warshaw goes down, MIA radar goes down, Shalala arrives, Reno returns, Stierheim's out, juice bars are out, pirate radio lives, Bicentennial Park lives, Emilio Milian dies, Frosene Sonderling dies, Milt Sosin dies, Brickell Key gets built up, South Beach gets built up, Performing Arts Center still not built, Tom Tomlinson takes off, Angela Gittens touches down, Cuban spies pervade, chads hang, ballots get counted, ballots get recounted, Homestead Air Force Base goes down for the count, Reboredo steps down, musicians strike, Marlins strike out, sewage spills out, oil spills onto beaches, beaches disappear, Cuban ballplayers defect, Cuban doctors defect, Brickell Emporium closes, Body Positive closes, WAMI closes, Hurricane Debby fizzles, Latin music sizzles, cops and drugs, cops and hookers, priests and hookers, educators and hookers, hookers and killers, killer tires, killer trains, killer canals, kids kill, rip currents kill, light poles kill, lobbyists survive, Stiltsville survives, GableStage survives, Margarita Ruiz dies, Wayne Brehm dies, Heberto Padilla dies, Morris Lapidus dies, South Miami locks guns, Carollo gets locked up, insurance rates go up, Cuban politicos get violent, Gables politicos get the boot, Boy Scouts get the boot, traffic clogs, drought persists, Alfonso Sepe goes to jail, Gilda Oliveros goes to jail, Noriega stays in jail, Latin Grammys go, Latin Grammys arrive, City of Miami Lakes arrives, Versace's mansion gets sold, Madonna's mansion gets sold, SoBe nightlife gets old, and just when the magic seems to have vanished from the Magic City, a minor miracle occurs: The address of little Elian's Miami home, 2319, pays $5000 in the Florida lottery.
Most writers ardently believe in the power of language. Fred D'Aguiar believes in the power of the word. In that way he is a poet even when he writes prose. His fiction displays the poet's love for the word's evocative, lyrical, sensual resonance. In Feeding the Ghosts, published in the United States by Ecco Press in 1999, D'Aguiar prefigures the death of a group of slaves thrown into the sea with this beautifully horrific passage on drowning: "Surrender to its depths. Find its secrets. Become loose-limbed like the water. As boneless. Learn that home is always some other shore. Sink from sunlight and moonlight. Maybe see the stars distended on water, from below water. Or the constellation spread out on a moonlit sea." Born in London and raised in Guyana, D'Aguiar is now a professor in the creative-writing program at the University of Miami and an important and passionate voice in Miami's literary community. He won the Whitbread First Novel Award in 1994 for The Longest Memory. His work also has won the David Higham Prize and the Guyana Fiction Award. His verse novel Bloodlines, about a female slave who falls in love with a plantation owner, will be published by Overlook Press in July.
Walking along Biscayne Boulevard in the Edgewater neighborhood, you may have noticed a smiling sun rising above a wooden fence. On the other side sits a Haitian culture garden. In one corner two large eyes look out from an altar to the sensual Ezili. Toward the center of the garden a larger-than-life cutout of a leader of the Haitian revolution towers above a mound dedicated to warriors. A poem calling for respect and justice for all is written on the wall in Kreyol beside a small wooden store. A pole that channels the vodou gods from the other world into the bodies of faithful dancers rises before a stage where on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights local musicians and poets perform. Inside the gallery, where proprietor Jude "Papaloko" Thegenus resides, hang ironworks, paintings, and photographs by local Haitian artists. The Caribbean Backyard is more evidence of the do-it-yourself culture that is sprouting everywhere across the neighborhoods of Miami.
The lady has cojones, which is more than we can say for the rest of the editorial page. Krog spends most of her time writing unsigned editorials, typically on the subject of county government. But she also pens signed opinion columns, which are sassier. For instance in a recent column she blasted Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas for opposing the hiring of Angela Gittens as the county's new aviation director. "For his political gain, Penelas is making it nearly impossible for MIA -- and therefore the public he purports to serve -- to get the strong, experienced management it needs," Krog wrote. "You have to wonder from whom Penelas is taking advice and counsel these days. I'd suggest he fire their butts."

On another occasion Krog was equally blunt toward the newest member of the school board. "It wasn't that I expected new Miami-Dade School Board member Jacqueline Pepper to start her public life with a quick display of leadership or anything," Krog allowed. "She's a political newcomer, after all, and has a lot to learn on the job. But I sure thought that for starters she'd do something smarter than hire her husband as a staff aide. It's legal, says Pepper. Sure, but it's not right."

And on the nomination by President George W. Bush of Linda Chavez as secretary of labor, Krog had this to say: "If Chavez is a victim of anything beyond her own bad judgment calls, it isn't the Beltway's witch-hunt atmosphere as she claims, but Bush's unwise selection of her in the first place."

Krog's strongest column of the past year, however, was far more personal. She wrote about the death of her father: "A few words about this man: He called dry cereal “pop-nuts-scrummies.' He took in strays -- both the two-legged and four-legged varieties. He baptized a basset hound that wandered onto the place and became his adoring shadow “Soupbone' for its sorry shape. He had only one usable arm after polio but played basketball, touch football, and softball with his kids on summer evenings after a long, hard day of farm work. He never whined, never complained, never looked back with regret, always leaning slightly forward into life, which he embraced and accepted for what it was -- and for what it could be."

True, animal-rights activists are up in arms about it, but it's difficult to resist the experience of actually getting into a tank and splashing around with the Seaquarium's dolphins. Shooting through the warm water like a, well, dolphin, watching them leap above and around you is a kick for kids and adults alike. But it's titillation with a price. You'll pay $125 per swimmer. And if you're allowing your kid to do it but want to watch, that's an extra $32. And children are required to have a guardian present, so consider that fee mandatory. Fortunately the money buys you some safety and reassurance as well: Four trainers are in the tanks along with three to five dolphins per session. Just one warning: Raw sardines may be a treat for the dolphins, but it's doubtful you'll find them as tasty.

When Edward Leedskalnin died in Miami in 1951, he left behind a genuine Florida wonder. Leedskalnin said he built the Coral Castle for his sixteen-year-old fiancée who ended up rejecting him. To furnish the couple's fantasy manse, the five-foot-tall, 100-pound former lumberjack labored obsessively for twenty years. Under cover of darkness he quarried, carved, and positioned more than 1100 tons of oolitic limestone using handmade pulleys and levers. Among his creations: a twenty-foot-long table shaped like the State of Florida with Lake Okeechobee as a finger bowl; 1000-pound rocking chairs that really rock; a sundial, a throne room, and a nine-ton revolving gate that opens with a gentle push and closes with only a quarter-inch clearance on either side. To this day Leedskalnin and the Coral Castle remain mysteries. (Two teenagers once claimed they saw him levitating coral blocks like helium balloons.) Billy Idol penned "Sweet Sixteen" after an inspired visit, and the edifice appears in the 1958 bomb The Wild Women of Wongo, available for $19.99 in the gift shop. The Coral Castle opens daily at 9:00 a.m. Call for closing times. Admission is $7.75 and free for children under age six.

We want to send a shout out to the Big Lip Bandit. All right. All right. Okay. We'd kiss you if your lips weren't so big. All right. All right. Okay. A bppppppppppppppppppppppp raspberry your way, brother. The BL Bandit (actually a relatively modest-lipped Philadelphia native) has turned weeknights on 99 Jamz into a raucous and extremely social party in which the music may be played merely to give his lips a well-earned rest before he unleashes another explosion of distinctive, infectious patter. As most of Miami knows by now, the man has a mouth.
The symbolic heart of Little Havana once again is beating strong, thanks to an infusion of new blood from artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. The old landmarks are still there. The smells of café cubano and oven-roasted pork still emanate from El Pub. Domino Park remains the site of some of the fiercest domino games and political conversation anywhere. And the historic Tower Theater has reopened as a neighborhood cinema. But what's really put this strip back on the map is its growing arts scene, a collection of studios and galleries that has turned the area into Miami's cultural district. The best way to get acquainted with all that's new -- and old -- on Calle Ocho is to attend Viernes Culturales, Cultural Fridays, a neighborhood open house and street festival held the last Friday of every month.

Best Cuban Baseball Player (Recently Retired)

Rene Arocha

In 1991 Arocha became the first member of the Cuban national baseball team to defect to the United States, opening the floodgates for other Cuban peloteros such as El Duque, Osvaldo Fernandez, and Livan Hernandez. For that he will go down in history. Arocha didn't bag a multimillion-dollar contract like other Cuban players who followed. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for a meager $15,000 and made less then $150,000 his first year. But for Arocha it's not about the money. It's about being first -- but definitely not last.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®