Sunday, September 30, 2007

Where English Won't Suffice ~ Welcome To Miami


The Miami News, an afternoon paper, had folded and managing editor Sylvan Meyer had started to publish Miami Magazine, with my friend Jim Kukar as editor. I'd worked as a photographer with Jim at the North Dade Journal, at an ad agency, and on numerous political campaigns so it was no surprise when I started getting assignments to shoot for the magazine. These were mostly of political movers and shakers, but one day he called with an odd request. He wanted a photo of a hand holding both an American flag and a Cuban flag.

The story was about how Miami had become more and more a Cuban town. We were still a two newspaper town, but the Miami News had been replaced with a Spanish paper. A few years later we became a three newspaper town of sorts when the Herald started a Spanish language edition.

I scoured the stores but I couldn't find a pair of flags that were both the right size and the same size as one another. I ended up photographing two larger flags and making little black and white prints of the correct size. I cut them out and glued them to the sticks. I don't remember whose hand I used. Hell, it might have been my own hand, with the camera mounted on a tripod. One thing I do remember is that the art director gave me a sketch of the page lay-out so I'd leave enough empty space in the right places for the title and the block of text. The smaller picture was used on the table of contents page. The article appeared in the August 1977 issue of Miami Magazine.

Thirty years later Miami is still largely an Hispanic town, but the accents aren't all Cuban these days. We have people from all over Central and South America. There are parts of town where it still can be a problem finding a store clerk that's really fluent in English. It is getting better, though, as the Portuguese speaking Brazilians, the Kreyole speaking Haitians, and people who grew up speaking a dozen dialects of Spanish are starting to realize that there are some good reasons to speak a common language. Their choice is English.

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