Best Local Girl Made Good 2021 | Marilyn Bonachea | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Marilyn Bonachea is as Miami as guava pie. In fact, baked goods are even to blame for her dalliance with one of the city's biggest drug kingpins, Sal Magluta: She met him in 1971 while working at his parents' Little Havana bakery back when she was a teen and he was a no-name Miami High dropout. In the recent Netflix docuseries Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami, Bonachea explains in detail her relationship with Magluta, who along with his partner Willy Falcon allegedly smuggled tons of cocaine and amassed an estimated $2 billion fortune. There were fast boats, alleged murder coverups, and lots and lots of cocaine. For years, Willy and Sal evaded police, and then, after the law finally caught up with them, it was Bonachea who continued working as Magluta's bookkeeper, paying out for lawyers, friends, and family, and also bribes aimed at securing an acquittal. But law enforcement officers got hold of Bonachea's handwritten ledger, she agreed to cooperate, testifying against her former lover, who is now serving a 195-year prison sentence in a Supermax facility in Colorado. Bonachea was in witness protection program until 2003. Now 65, she reportedly lives in the tranquil seaside community of Vero Beach.

In the late summer of 2021, as COVID-19's Delta variant was sending an alarming number of children to the hospital, Lubby Navarro had the distinct honor of being the sole member of the eight-person Miami-Dade County Public School Board to vote against implementing a mask mandate. During an August meeting mere days before classes started for the 2021-2022 school year, parents, teachers, and health experts told the board that despite Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' bizarre posturing to the contrary, masks are students' best bet to avoid contracting the virus, given the constraints of social distancing in classrooms and the fact that children under age 12 remain ineligible to receive vaccinations. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had already announced he was ready to face the consequences of defying DeSantis' order forbidding school districts from requiring masks without giving parents a choice to opt out. But Lubby Navarro was having none of it. Not long after the meeting, CBS4's Jim DeFede gave Navarro a thorough Twitter reaming, pointing out that she calls herself "Dr. Lubby Navarro" despite the fact that she has neither a medical degree nor a doctorate from an accredited university, but rather an honorary degree the Catholic University of New Spain, an establishment located on the ninth floor of an office building in downtown Miami. (Perhaps not surprisingly, the Miami-based Christian Family Coalition Florida noted in its 2020 voters' guide that Navarro supports "prohibit[ing] biological boys in girls' bathrooms and locker rooms.")

Photo by Galfry Puechavy

Born and reared in Miami, Cassius Corrigan is the son of a judge, who spent part of his youth in the courtroom watching his father at work. The experience led him to write, direct, produce, and star in a movie about a Latino MMA fighter whose fight extends beyond the ring as he battles with mental-health and systemic issues. Shot on location in Miami with a predominantly local cast, Huracán premiered on HBO in late 2020 and propelled a young Corrigan into stardom. Already this year, Corrigan has produced an action thriller, The Birthday Cake, which stars Ewan McGregor and Val Kilmer. He aims to continue to tell Miami stories and put them on the big screen for all to see.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

The image of Jeff Bezos soaring above the Earth's atmosphere in his own rocket earlier this summer was like a scene straight out of Dr. Strangelove, right down to the Amazon mogul's Slim Pickens-esque choice of headgear. The 11-minute, $5.5 billion supersonic joyride may have been brief, but it represented in miniature the Miami native's long journey beyond the financial exosphere. His adoptive dad, Miguel "Mike" Bezos, was a Cuban immigrant who came to the Magic City as a child during Operation Pedro Pan. Bezos was Palmetto Senior High's 1982 valedictorian and spent a summer as a fry cook at McDonald's, where doubtless he basked in the power of mass consumerism and automation. Bezos built Amazon into an omnipotent retailer by subjecting the company's grunts to grueling working conditions and unrealistic productivity expectations. During the pandemic, which served as rocket fuel for online purchasing, tens of thousands of Amazon employees tested positive for COVID-19. Workers who spoke out against a working environment they felt was unsafe claimed they faced retaliation, and complaints increasingly surfaced that the company was interfering with unionization efforts. During the press conference that followed his his wild ride into space, Bezos went full Dr. Evil. Without a hint of self-awareness, he said, "I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this."

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Frederica Wilson means far more to Miami than her iconic, colorful headgear might suggest. For years she has fought for under-represented minorities, first as principal of Skyway Elementary School in Miami Gardens, then as a member of the Miami-Dade school board, the Florida legislature and, since 2011, Congress. Before taking the oath of office to represent Florida's 24th Congressional District (which covers Aventura, Hollywood, Miami Gardens, North Miami, and North Miami Beach), she founded the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, an innovative mentorship program for students. While in office, she went toe-to-toe with Donald Trump during his presidency, including roasting the president for mishandling a phone call with a grieving widow of a U.S. soldier. She's never one to remain silent when it comes to injustice — she remains vocal about U.S. aid to Haiti after the recent presidential assassination, has helped residents of Edgewater negotiate with their landlords regarding displacement, and more. (She's always dressed to the nines, by the way, because she's inspired by her grandmother.)

Photo courtesy of Andrea Mercado

For more than a decade, Andrea Mercado has been a fierce advocate for communities of color. The daughter of South American immigrants and recently became co-executive director of Florida Rising, an independent political organization working to bolster the voting and political power of marginalized groups. Her work as cofounder and director of campaigns at the National Domestic Workers Alliance helped birth Domestic Worker Bill of Rights legislation in seven states and national overtime protections for two million home-care workers. At Florida Rising, she leads a team that registered over 200,000 Floridians to vote, passed legislation such as the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act and the Tammy Jackson Act, won a $4 million dollar settlement for Florida families on disaster food stamps after Hurricane Irma, and provided more than $300,000 in COVID-19 relief for Florida's marginalized communities. She does it all in an effort to ensure a brighter future for underserved groups throughout South Florida.

For those not in the biz, "flack" is a semi-unkind name for the public information officer of a given private or governmental entity. We journos like to shorten things, and these folks' official titles are often something like "vice president of external relations for the South Florida subdivision," which wastes a lot of ink. The term itself has murky origins. It could harken back to World War II-era anti-aircraft gunfire (AKA "flak"), as reporters often fancy themselves heroes in a battle between good and evil, which makes guardians of coveted information (the flacks) the bad guys in this scenario. Likewise, flacks often find themselves defending someone or something against incoming flak from people like us. In the ceaseless battle for information, both sides can occasionally lose the point of the exchange, and it's the rare spokesperson indeed who is unfailingly knowledgeable, courteous, and bend-over-backward helpful. One of those is local treasure Eunice Sigler of Florida's 11th Judicial Circuit. If she can get you the information you're looking for, she'll do it. If you have a question, she'll answer it quickly and thoroughly. And if you're looking for something that can't be gotten, she'll let you know and let you know why. Navigating the oft-contentious world of journalists, defendants, lawyers, and judges has to be a tough gig, but Sigler unfailingly does it with grace and style.

Courtesy of Feeding South Florida

Careful readers of New Times Best of Miami editions might notice a couple of things. First, Feeding South Florida is based in Broward County, which even the most geographically challenged will note is not in Miami. And second, the charity was given this same award in the 2020 Best of Miami issue. But frankly, the organization is just that good, and its services are essential to the neediest among us in the entire region — which includes Miami-Dade County. During the past 12 months, the charity's leadership and army of volunteers have selflessly stepped up to help South Floridians dealing with the fallout from the pandemic. Although the group was recently dealt a setback — losing out on a state food-distribution contract in Broward and Palm Beach counties — its long and impressive track record ensures that it will continue to fulfill its mission for years to come.

Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for PAMM

On their own, Craig Robins and Jackie Soffer are formidable Miamians. He's the commercial real estate wunderkind who's transformed the Design District into one of the world's most visited luxury retail shopping districts. She's the scion to a family empire that built Aventura while forging her own path cementing development partnerships to build North Miami's Solé Mia and the new Miami Beach Convention Center hotel. As husband and wife, Robins and Soffer are an unstoppable force in Miami's high society. Their mutual flair for stylish design, fashion and art has landed them in the pages of W magazine and Architectural Digest. Like many one-percenter tales of romance found, their courtship began, well, in court. According to a 2018 W profile, Robins said they met when "she sued me." It was a dispute over private-jet fees that was quickly settled when they realized "we didn't want to fight anymore." Exactly. Why try to beat your adversary when you can marry instead? Well played, you two. Well played.

At the turn of the next century, if Miami isn't entirely submerged, kids in elementary school will learn about the very beginnings of the Magic City's transformation from a tourist-driven party destination into the tech hub of the Americas. They will click open a blockchain hologram that reveals the ancient Twitter archives of all the founding fathers of Miami's tech-bro scene and up will pop a December 4, 2020, tweet from San Francisco venture capitalist Delian Asparouhov, who typed the following 13 fateful words: "ok guys hear me out, what if we move silicon valley to miami." Among the prosaic answers to that seemingly innocuous question — "humidity is fucked"; "Too far south. Why not Seattle or Portland?" "Does Patagonia make speedos?" — came a response from the personal account of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (@FrancisSuarez): "How can I help?" And nothing would ever be the same again.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®