Election Day in Hialeah - A Photo Tour

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You may be reading this tomorrow when none of this matters. But I thought I’d give you a little flavor of just how weird life gets for us here at the New Times. While most cities and towns snooze during their local elections. The City of Progress jitters and jumps and shouts and calls each other names. It’s awesome. Next year, don’t vote. Just go to Hialeah and hang out. -- Calvin Godfrey

All Photos by Calvin Godfrey

The pretty lady in the center (Elizabeth Iglesias) was handing out fans in the shape of hearts with friends here in front of Milander Park. She is one of five candidates competing for a city commission seat. Love, romance and sex figured prominently in the Hialeah election process.

Claribel “Beba” Ferrer, formerly of Havana, stapled Elizabeth’s flier to her hat.

More than anything, Ferrer believes that democracy appears to be dying. “I’m try for the whole peoples – the young peoples,” she said. “We old people will go down. It’s very important that the young peoples come out for freedom country.” Ferrer pledged to go out and campaign on high school and college campuses for votes. She wants the youngsters to move back to Hialeah, too. “We need the peace in Hialeah,” she said, what a sweetheart.

Not pictured is an old man screaming “Keep Hialeah Free” into a hand-held bullhorn microphone.

Tom works for the Water and Sewer department but he came out today to show his support for Isis, who is running for the same city commission seat as Elizabeth. “Isis is the best,” he said. When asked why he answered “because she is, that’s it. She is the best above the rest.” Tom was awesome.

This is Cindy Miel. She describes herself as the only commissioner who opposes the mayor of Hialeah. “I vote along with him 90 percent of the time,” she said, standing in front of her small campaign tent. The ten percent disagreement has only to do with his abuse of no bid contracts, she says.

The Herald endorsed her as did the city’s firefighters.

But because Miel, a school teacher, is on the outs with the mayor, she received no fundraising help from him. She took out a $16,000 loan and $2,000 out of her personal savings for a total campaign war chest of $39,000.

There are four candidates running for her seat –including Elizabeth and Isis. Miel’s signs are few and far between around town.

In the right corner you have Irene Secada, campaign manager for two candidates: her brother Phil and a woman named Mercy Dominguez.

In the left corner, wearing a plaid tie, you have David Concepcion, a Mayoral staffer who has taken time off to campaign for Dominguez’s opponent, Jose Caragol.

They’re fighting because Concepcion introduced her to a group of people as “Phil’s Lesbian sister.” Secada proceeded to rip the dweeb a new one. Which was awesome to watch. She called the mayor’s office, brought both her mother and her brother to the area and whittled him down to about three inches tall.

This guy gets my vote for most awesome dude on the planet.

His name is Andrew Calderin, he’s 75 years old and he just doesn’t give a fuck. He flew P-51 Mustangs in Korea. He flew F-111’s in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Israel.

When asked which country he liked most, he waves a hand. “That’s a silly question.”

He’s stationed at the door post of Hialeah’s VFW, a polling place right across from the Moose Lodge. He both loves and hates being stationed at the door. He loves the fresh air and being able to smoke (which he does in a continuous chain). He hates dealing with all the drama.

“If there’s going to be trouble,” he said. “It’s going to happen here.” Standing behind him is the guy that’s supposed to be working the door at the Moose Lodge. Calderin points out that he’s doing a much better job than that guy. He’s holding the 1,000 foot perimeter like it was the 38th parallel. “You won’t see shirts and bullshit here,” he says.

“We’ve both been drinking all day,” Calderin jokes when the guy wanders away. “But I’ve been drinking Pepsi.”

Hialeah’s crazy he agrees, as Caragol prances in and out of traffic, pumping his arm as passing cars and trucks honk their horns. “That guy’s crazy,” he says. He watched television news interview Caragol a few hours ago. He imagines they’ll have to bleep out the whole thing. “He used the F word like twenty times,” he said. “Horses ass, asshole, you don’t use those words on TV.”

This is Councilman Jose Caragol, he’s pretty cool. He started his display without the orange glasses and added them later, for effect. He’s been pumping his arm and getting passing motorists to honk their horns for a couple of hours. It seems to give him power.

I almost got Caragol in trouble when I broke the story about how he was rhyming his name with an endorsement for blowjobs. (Se gusta sexo oral, vota Caragol por consejal). He tends to just throw things into rhyming couplets without thinking about them too much. Which, I think, is just fine.

When I gave him a wave, he didn’t seem too sore about it. He just smiled. “I’m having fun!” he boomed. Which was great also.

I don’t know that I’d vote for him. But I kinda wish he was my grandpa.

This is a little old man Anthony Watson. He’s the chaplain at the VFW post 8330 where all this craziness was going on. I caught up with him before he headed in to vote.

Immediately after telling me his name, Watson announced: “I’ve seen more dead people in a week than you’ll see in 1,000 years. And most of them were ours.”

Watson turned 19 on the Beach at Normandy.

When I asked him what he thought of Hialeah and all the madness of the election, he smiled. “Well, it’s America. This is what we all fought and died for . You can criticize a politician and not get shot—propably the only country in the world.

“I’ve traveled all over the globe and America, at its worst, is better than any other country. And you can take that to the bank.”

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