Miami Stories

Miami Stories
11:22 pm
Sun March 29, 2015

Miami Theater Brings A Lifetime Of Inspiration

Veronica Diaz as the lead in Thoroughly Modern Millie.


This story, as told by Veronica Diaz, is part of an oral history series.

Let’s set the scene: It’s early 2004, and my mother is taking my younger sister and me to go watch Cats: The Musical at what was then known as Jackie Gleason Theater on Miami Beach.

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Oral History
4:45 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

MiamiStories: Up In Smoke

Oscar Fuentes as The Biscayne Poet

This story, as told by Oscar Fuentes, is part of an oral history series.

It was the summer of 2003; I was living in a very old and ugly apartment building between Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast 2nd Avenue, off of 33rd Street. I had a bitter, mentally unstable landlord that walked around with a concealed weapon. I had a part-time gig at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, now HistoryMiami. I would give guided tours of the permanent galleries and write historical theater scripts for their summer camp program.

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Miami Stories
9:56 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

A Cuban Rafter Looks Back, 20 Years Later

Pedro Fournier holding a picture of himself in Cuba.
Credit the Miami Herald

This story, as told by Pedro Fournier, is part of an oral history series.

I was born in Guantánamo in 1956. I moved to Havana as a teenager to study and ultimately graduated with a math degree. In 1994, I decided take a raft to the United States. 

I had to leave Cuba. I had no future there.

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4:18 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Miami Stories: Grandaughter Recounts Day Trips With Abuela

Family photo taken after Olga's brother Henry’s First Holy Communion at Immaculate Conception Church. Pictured from left to right, her father Henry, mom- “Cuqui”, Grand Aunt Estelita, Maternal Grandmother Olga, Paternal Grandmother Abuela Nena (on which story is based), Olga in front of her and her two brothers Henry and Dave.

This story, as told by Olga Perez-Cormier, is part of an oral history series. 

It was always exciting when Abuela would tell me that she needed to go downtown for the day. This meant she had business to attend to at “El Refugio,” the Cuban Assistance Center. This also meant that we would do a little shopping. As a reward for helping her translate and get around, she would treat me to lunch at McCrory’s.

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Miami Stories
4:04 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

A Miami Story: The Litzes Take Miami

Sheila and Norman Litz's engagement photo

This story, as told by Ronni Litz Julien, is part of an oral history series. 

Sheila Presser (Bronx-born) and Norman Litz (a Philadelphian) both moved to Florida with their families in 1946. 

Sheila graduated from South Broward High School, named “wittiest” in her senior class.  Norman graduated from Miami High School, a left-handed star pitcher on the baseball team; he was also known as “Lefty Litz.”  Upon graduation, the University of Miami offered Norman a baseball scholarship; he pitched for two years as a Miami Hurricane. 

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Miami Stories
3:45 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

For 89 Years, A Charmed Life In Miami

The author with a dolphin that he caught while fishing.

Miami Stories is a project by WLRN, the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and HistoryMiami. To share your story, click here.

In 1925, my parents and I disembarked in Miami after a three-day train trip from Chicago, and went to stay at a cottage surrounded by a grapefruit grove that belonged to my mother’s aunt. I was three years old, and it marked the beginning of my nearly nine-decade-long adventure in South Florida.

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Miami Stories
4:59 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Police Chief Recalls Immigrating To Miami

Ian Moffett after being sworn in as Miami Dade Schools Police Chief with his wife and son.

This story, as told by Ian Moffett, is part of an oral history series. 

I was born in Georgetown, Guyana, which is the only English-speaking country in South America. At the age of 6, my parents migrated to Toronto, Canada.  

I remember my love for police work came from that tall police officer who visited my third grade classroom for career day. His uniform and command presence stood out the most and left a visual imprint or what I refer to as a personal vision. 

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Miami Stories
2:05 pm
Fri March 14, 2014

The Many Different Smiles That Make Up Miami

Oliveira with his daughter when he first moved to Miami.

This story, as told by Marcos Oliveira, is part of an oral history series. 

My experience here in Miami has shown me that here you have the opportunity to make relationships with many kinds of people. This gives you ample possibility to be flexible with people and at the same time with yourself. 

Why? Well at the same time that you’re at a meeting, you can sit in a table with someone that’s from Colombia, another from Venezuela, another from Chile, another from here in Miami, another from Europe. Then you have to maintain a dialogue with those kind of people.

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Miami Stories
4:15 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Going From Prejudice To Unity In South Florida's Warm Culture

Mark Avila in 1983

This story, as told by Mark Avila, is part of an oral history series.           

I was born in the city of San Pedro, California. Our family is very large and of Mexican descent. I was the youngest of four children. We grew up in a Catholic parochial school. Then I chose to further my education.

I was the only one in my family who went to college. And I was the only one who decided I did not want to follow the routine that everybody did in the city where I came from, which is basically working on the docks and in the shipyard.

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Miami Stories
3:46 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

T. Willard Fair Was ‘The Muhammad Ali Of Black Dade County

T. Willard Fair is preparing to celebrate his 50th year as the president of the Urban League of Greater Miami. Early on, he and the UL desegregated Eastern Airlines and other major South Florida employers of the late 1960s-early 1970s.
Credit Miami Herald

This is the story of T. Willard Fair as told by him.

I was born in 1939 in Winston-Salem, N.C. I’m the last of eight children. I was born to John Fair and Mary Lou Fair.

People ask me about the name “Talmadge,” which is an unusual name for me to have. The day I was born, I came home and the insurance broker came by and inquired as to whether or not my mother had named me. She said no. He said, “Why don’t you name him Talmadge?’’

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Miami Stories
7:05 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Tooling Around Miami As A Teen In The ’60s

The author as a teenager in the 1960s.

This is the story of Joe Arango as told by him.

My Miami story began the day my KLM flight touched down from Cuba at Miami International Airport.

I was traveling alone in 1961 at the age of 11. I was going to some unknown destination, which turned out to be an orphanage in Colorado, arranged by Operation Pedro Pan. I was reunited with my mother and two younger sisters almost two years later in Miami (we were some of the lucky ones).

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Miami Stories
7:25 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Transforming Her Pain: Ligia Houben's Story

Ligia Houben left Nicaragua for Miami after her father died. She lost her familiar homeland shortly after losing her parent. As part of her grieving process, she wrote extensively. Her efforts became a self-help book that introduced 11 principles for transforming loss. She was astonished by the magic in her numbers.

Listen to her story below.

Houben now teaches classes in Ethics, Religion, and Death and Dying at Florida International University, Kaplan, and Miami Dade College.

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Miami Stories
6:30 am
Fri November 1, 2013

A Wild Frontier In West Kendall

The Reyes family: Marily, Frank and Frances.
Credit Courtesy / Miami Herald

Southwest 132nd Avenue was on the edge of Miami in 1972, when Marily Reyes and her husband Frank moved into their new home just south of Bird Road. Their view across the narrow avenue was elephant grass for six long years.

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10:55 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Plunging In: How Miami's Beaches Were Integrated

Garth Reeves was a young World War II veteran when he came home to Miami and went to work at his father’s newspaper, the Miami Times.

He bought property, paid taxes and voted in elections. But the beach at Virginia Key was the only one where black residents could go without trouble.

“It wasn’t a very good beach. But right down the street there was Crandon Park - beautiful beach, beautiful clubhouse. Everything was first class.”

So a meeting was arranged with the county commission.

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Community Contributor
7:41 am
Tue July 16, 2013

After No Goodbyes In Cuba, Exile Makes Miami Home

This article, originally published in the Miami Herald, is part of HistoryMiami's Miami Stories project.

When I arrived in Miami in the early 1970s, I never could imagine that I would end up calling this city home.

We came to Miami after a short stay in Spain. I came with my parents, Isabel and Ramon Santos, and my younger sister, Ana. Like many young children, we were excited about moving into a new place, learning a new language and making new friends.

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