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Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible



This is a work-in-progress report of Miami Studies, a curricular, research, and collections-focused initiative housed at the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab (WPHL) at Florida International University (FIU). Miami Studies represents a unique approach to Latina/o/x studies in the Greater Miami region and at one of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) in the country. The rationale, framework, and historical context for a Miami Studies school of urbanism is described in detail. This is followed by an explanation of the WPHL’s digitally focused initiatives: the digitization of a now-defunct newspaper titled Miami Life and the Mellon Foundation-funded Community Data Curation post-custodial project. Also referenced is the Díaz Ayala Collection of Cuban and Latin American Popular Music, housed at FIU Libraries.
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
Katie L. Coldiron, Florida International University, USA
Julio Capó, Jr., Ph.D., Florida International University, USA
This is a work-in-progress report of Miami Studies, a curricular, research, and collections-focused
initiative housed at the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab (WPHL) at Florida International
University (FIU). Miami Studies represents a unique approach to Latina/o/x studies in the Greater
Miami region and at one of the country's largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). The rationale,
framework, and historical context for a Miami Studies school of urbanism are described in detail.
This is followed by an explanation of the WPHL’s digitally focused initiatives: the digitization of
a now-defunct newspaper titled Miami Life and the Mellon Foundation-funded Community Data
Curation post-custodial project. Also referenced is the Díaz Ayala Collection of Cuban and Latin
American Popular Music, housed at FIU Libraries.
Keywords: community partnerships; digital humanities; Latinx; Miami; post-custodial archiving
Publication Type: special section publication
long with several other programs at Florida International University (FIU) and in
collaboration with numerous community partners, the Wolfsonian Public Humanities Lab
(WPHL) is working to build a robust program in Miami Studies. The WPHL is FIU’s hub for
humanistic inquiry that bridges the scholarship and resources of the university to the broader
South Florida community and beyond. Designated a Carnegie Mellon R1-rated research
institution, FIU is Miami’s only public research university, and, with nearly 60,000 students
enrolled, it is also one of the largest Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) in the United States.
Although over 60% of FIU’s student body is Hispanic or Latina/o/x, the university does not
currently house a program distinctly dedicated to understanding the Latina/o/x experience in
the United States. Thus, the need for a Miami Studies Programespecially one housed in the
city’s public research universityis dire.
Incorporated as a city in 1896, Miami is one of the most influential cities in the United States and
the Americas. Its history, culture, politics, and overall significance, however, are still
largely caricatured through myth, stigma, and hyperbole, all of which are deeply rooted in the
region’s layered past and relationship to colonial processes and empire (Capó & Friedman,
2021; Read, 2009). For example, it is still common for people’s general knowledge of the
region or its past to be drawn from representations in popular culture and media. From the
glamor presented in scripted TV shows like Nip/Tuck or reality TV shows like The Real
Housewives of Miami, or even the ubiquitous “Florida Man” headlines found in newspapers
across the county, representations of Miami, its past, and the people who call it home are far
too often superficial, reductive, or altogether inaccurate.1 For instance, many people’s
understandings of the Mariel boatlift of 1980
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
and the thousands of Cubans who entered the United States during one of the most controversial
episodes of U.S. immigration history often originate from fictional retellings and misinformation,
such as the storyline of the 1983 film Scarface that starred Al Pacino as Cuban mafioso Tony
Montana. While the film itself acknowledges in one of the opening scenes that the majority of
Cubans who entered the United States during this period were not criminals, Montana’s
violent storyline helped perpetuate the myths of criminality, deviancy, and undesirability that
many people still associate with this episode in Cuba-U.S. historyone that is still frequently
cited as one of the United States’ most notorious immigration blunders (De Palma, 1983;
Bustamante & Manzor, 2021).
Although the city remains seriously understudied and poorly understood, recent years have seen
a significant push in scholarly work and attention on the region.2 As those and countless
community-based works demonstrate, Miami’s geography, culture, and history have critically
shaped national and international conversations for decades. The Greater Miami area has been
influential, if not centrally embroiled, in many of the nation’s most significant and often
controversial issues. This runs the gamut from determining presidential elections (e.g., the 2000
election; Sutton, 2000); setting the tone for foreign policy (e.g., opposition to Latin American
and Caribbean authoritarian regimes, such as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; CBS Miami,
2019); seeing the growth of mass incarceration (e.g., Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation
Department currently operates the eighth largest jail system in the United States; Pérez, 2016);
institutionalizing anti-Black violence (e.g., Miami Police Chief Walter Headley’s influential
mandate from 1967: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts;” Capó, 2020); reporting and
containing outbreaks and disease (e.g., reports that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration
misled the public on data about COVID-19; Ariza et al., 2020); recovering from and responding
to natural disasters (e.g., the devastating effects on the region of Category 5 Hurricane Andrew
in 1992; Feito, 2022); experiencing the results of climate crises (e.g., the climate gentrification
of Miami’s Little Haiti, where elevation is substantially higher than other areas; Green, 2019);
spurring debates on immigration and detention (e.g., the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the for-
profit Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children that closed in 2019; Burnett,
2019); and so many others.
As more people look to Miami to better understand these and many other pivotal contemporary
issues, a new school of urban thought seems in order. Indeed, much like the formation of a
Chicago School in the early 20th century and a Los Angeles School in the late 20th century, this
work envisions a Miami School of urbanism that is specifically designed for a multicultural city of
the Americas. A brief genealogy of schools of urbanism is helpful here. The Chicago School
represented the work of social scientists in the early 20th century based out of the University of
Chicago, which helped create new methods and paradigms of applied research in urban studies
by viewing the city of Chicago as a social laboratory that could help us understand and explore
social and cultural responses to the urban environment (Turner, 1998). Architects, urban
planners, and others inched away from modernism, as with the controversial 1972 publication of
Learning from Las Vegas, which seriously assessed the Las Vegas Strip on its own terms and sought
to take the general public’s tastes and desires in urban spaces more acutely into account (Venturi
et al., 1972). Indeed, by the 1980s, the Los Angeles School had emerged, encompassing several
scholars whose research focused on Southern California, especially Los Angeles and its social and
economic underpinnings. It represented a shift from an ordered and modernist city (e.g.,
Chicago) to the Los Angeles urban studies paradigm, which was at once postmodern in its
conception and reflective of a more fragmented and decentralized form of urban planning and
growth (Caves, 2004). By the late 1980s, a New Urbanism had developed too, one that sought to
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
break “from both the modern and postmodern principles of design and planning,” in effect
“[r]ejecting the sterility of the one and the relativism of the other” (Beauregard, 2002, p. 182).
Miami Studies builds on these and other urban paradigms, drawing inspiration from models that
cross physical and disciplinary boundaries. Indeed, inspired by what Sassen has called the “global
city(2002, xix), Miami Studies also looks to the rise of global studies urban programs (e.g.,
Global Urban Studies programs at Rutgers University and Michigan State University) and projects
(e.g., The Global Urban History Project) that have made clear the need for global, transnational,
and translocal methods and analysisones that transcend traditional boundaries, including
municipal, national, and disciplinarianto better study and improve the lived experiences within
built environments.3 In addition to size, diversity, and complexity, a global city “makes new
norms” (Larsen, 2010). As Sassen detailed in her 2010 interview with Foreign Policy, where she
discussed Miami’s apparent status as a global city:
…[Shifts in international trade and real estate development] coincided with the opening
of Latin America. In the 1990s and early 2000s, firms from all over the worldthe
Taiwanese, Italians, Korean, French, all overset up regional headquarters in Miami. In
the 1990s, there was also deregulation, so Miami became the banking center for Central
America. Then the art circuit, the designers’ circuit, and other things began to come into
the city. Large international corporations began to locate branches there, forging a
strong bridge with Europe that doesn’t run through New York. That mix of culturesin
such a concentrated space, and covering so many different sectorscreated remarkable
diversity and complexity. Of course, the Miami case is rather exceptional (Larsen, 2010).
Indeed, Miami is a city not only of and by “The Americas,” but one with distinct socio-economic
histories. It was never foundationally planned for significant industrialization, for instance.
It aggressively turned its attention to Latin America and the Caribbean for its economic success,
most concertedly so by the 1970s. Similarly, from its earliest days to the present, the city
grew almost instantaneously, explaining how it received its moniker of the “Magic City” in the
early 20th century, recognizing how the city had a distinct power, as if by magic, to transform
overnight. In broad strokes, rather than “mature” over time, its growth often occurred
exponentially in spurts, especially in population, texture, and world renown. Its economic
structures and patterns are similarly indicative of this. This includes the city powerbrokers
successful push in the late 1970s to pressure the State of Florida and others to change banking
laws to accept foreign deposits to the much more recent claim in 2021 by Miami Mayor Francis
Suarez that he would accept his salary paid in bitcoin (Crooks & Mills, 2022). So too, is the
international art fair and extravaganza known as Art Basel, which has become a symbol for the
city in many ways since its introduction there in 2002.
For as much as it takes its lead from urban studies, Miami Studies is also heavily inspired by and
draws knowledge from the formation and development of ethnic studies programs in the United
States, formally since the 1960s. Inspired by and a manifestation and product of the
transformative movements of the era—especially movements for the rights and liberation of
Black, women, Chicanx and Latinx, Asian American, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and other
communities, as well as broader anti-war and anti-imperialist sentiments—the formal
academic and curricular establishment of ethnic studies occurred in 1968. That’s when a
coalition of students of color and ethnic studies groups in higher education staged a student
strike demanding courses that reflected their lived experiences and provided more diverse
perspectives than the dominant white and Eurocentric narrative they found in their
classrooms. While the formation of ethnic
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
studies began in what is today San Francisco State University and the Berkeley and Santa Barbara
campuses at the University of California, these student-led efforts quickly inspired the
establishment of such programs across the nation (Hu-DeHart, 1993). While there have been
countless attacks on ethnic studies and programs over the decades—from Arizona’s 2010 ban
on Tucson’s Mexican American studies program (González v. Douglas, 2017) to attacks on the
new racial boogeyman broadly construed as “critical race theory” in multiple states throughout
the country—demand for such curriculum and community engagement remains high, especially
with renewed calls for Black liberation (e.g., including the Black Lives Matter movement)
following high-profile murders of Black women and men at the hands of police, such as
George Floyd in 2020. In this vein, Miami Studies pushes traditional disciplinary boundaries
and helps prepare students for today’s job market by emphasizing several competencies and
skills that can serve the community: digital mapping to oral history, to podcasting and
exhibition curation. Miami Studies critically engages in urban studies, cultural studies, Black
studies, Indigenous studies, Latina/o/x studies, ethnic studies, digital studies, and feminist,
gender, and queer studies to make a unique program that reflects the multicultural and
multilingual experiences, values, and histories of our South Florida community.
Without a standalone program of Latina/o/x studies at FIU, Miami Studies is designed to push
the boundaries of what constitutes traditional Latina/o/x studies by centrally integrating ethno-
racial communitiesinclusive of native and Indigenous communitiesthat traverse this land. By
engaging the transcultural experiences of race, ethnicity, nationality, and class in Greater Miami,
this school of urbanism is also thoughtful of integrating diasporic communities that are not
traditionally represented or included in Latina/o/x studies, such as Haitians, Bahamians,
Jamaicans, and Brazilians, for example. Today, South Florida houses the largest diasporic
communities in the United States of Haitian Americans, Nicaraguan Americans, Cuban Americans,
Bahamian Americans, and Venezuelan Americans. The region also boasts large and increasing
populations of Uruguayan Americans, Colombian Americans, Argentine Americans, Jamaican
Americans, and Brazilian Americans. Miami Studies does not observe the strict borders of fields
and disciplines and rejects narrow and strict municipal, regional, and national borders. Exploring
“Miami” as a conceptual modality requires that we zoom out and be inclusive of the histories
and experiences in neighboring counties, such as those in neighboring Broward County (e.g., Fort
Lauderdale), as well as the interconnected and transnational experiences of Latin America and
the Caribbean, such as those in Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and
This unique approach to a Latina/o/x studies curriculum benefitted from multiple initiatives to
build physical collections and research depositories and enhance the reach and breadth of
digital humanities scholarship at FIU, South Florida, and across many borders. This involves
numerous processes and decolonial methods in digital archiving, including post-custodial
methods that allow communities to keep and steward their archives rather than have them taken
to FIU or institutions like galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM). The Society of
American Archivists defines post-custodial archiving as those collaborative archival initiatives in
which creators maintain custody of their records. In contrast, archivists provide management
oversight (Society of American Archivists, 2022). Over the past decade, especially, for example,
multiple collaborative initiatives have sought to collect oral histories of Latina/o/x individuals
and communities, which are then stored in digital archives. Some of these initiatives include the
Voces Oral History Center (University of Texas at Austin), the 100 Puerto Ricans Oral
History Project (Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College), and Recovering the
Hispanic Research Collection (University of Houston), among several others. FIU is also
moving in this direction. It
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
counts among its collections select oral histories with Cubans who entered the United States in
the early 1960s through the U.S. government- and Catholic Church-sponsored Operación Pedro
Pan, or Operation Peter Pan (FIU Libraries, 2022b).
Similarly, over the past decade, multiple collaborative initiatives between U.S.-based entities,
particularly universities and partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, have blossomed to
preserve and digitize archival materials. This includes the Latin American Digital Initiatives (LADI)
Project (University of Texas Libraries), the International Digital Ephemera Project (University of
California, Los Angeles Library), and multiple initiatives of the Digital Library of the Caribbean
(dLOC) (FIU and the University of Florida). While all these initiatives are integral to shaping Miami
Studies, there remains much work to be done to preserve the varied stories of South Florida’s
many communities and their role in shaping the region and its history.
With all this in mind, below we briefly introduce three other initiatives at FIU (two specifically
initiated by WPHL staff) that broadly speak to these methods and the overall vision for Miami
Studies. The three initiatives include the recovery and digitization of a now-defunct newspaper
Miami Life; the cataloging, archiving, and digitization of one of the largest collections of
Caribbean and Latin American popular music at FIU Libraries; and a partnership with eight local
cultural institutions called Community Data Curation that collaboratively preserves, creates, and
narrates community stories from historically underrepresented or marginalized voices.
Miami Life and the Díaz Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection
Partially funded by a community grant from Florida Humanities, the WPHL and FIU Libraries’
Digital Collections Center completed the digitization of special issues of Miami Life in the
Summer of 2021. For decades, this alternative weekly newspaper had been thought entirely lost
to researchers. Over a decade ago, while researching Miami’s LGBTQ past, Julio Capó, Jr. tracked
down a descendant of the newspaper’s last known owner, Reubin Clein. That process, in part,
helped Capó complete his first book, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940 (2017).
Select bound copies of the newspaper were in the descendant’s possession and have since been
digitized through this initiative. They have been made text-searchable with Optical Character
Recognition (OCR). The following issues are now freely available on FIU Libraries’ public-facing
digital repository, dPanther: JanuaryDecember 1927; January 1928October 1929; September
1934September 1935; and JanuaryDecember 1949. Since its digitization and promotion, new
leads from community members have emerged, which we hope will lead to the recovery,
preservation, and accessibility of even more issues of this once-thought-lost newspaper.
The digitization of special issues of Miami Life has led to significant community discussions about
the city’s past and present. As an alternative press that highlighted its editor’s perspective and
tabloid that often experimented with stylistic devices such as jokes, poems, and rumors, these
issues of Miami Life often convey a greater sense of the city’s pulse during the first few decades
of its existence. These issues, often inadvertently, touch on a wide range of topics, including
economic downturn and recovery, immigration, anti-Semitism, anti-Blackness, and gender and
sexual politics. According to Clein family lore, Jewish pugilist Reubin Clein won the weekly Miami
Life during a game of cards in 1931 (while that is most questionable, it too has become part of
the source’s mythic lure). Clein used Miami Life to challenge or reaffirm existing power
structures in Florida. While stylized as a beacon of honesty, Clein also regularly adhered to some
of the era’s long-held beliefs of anti-Blackness (especially racial segregation), xenophobia, and
homophobia. Among many things, the newspaper is a snapshot of life in the Jim Crow U.S. South.
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
In March of 2022, the WPHL hosted its inaugural Miami Studies Symposium. These were among
the central topics and themes of the day’s panels, which included one on the recovery and
retelling of complex and often violent stories from the city’s past, as well as the long history of
community-based efforts to preserve the city’s Black history and sites of memory and
As this might suggest, even just a cursory search of the digital collection reveals what these
issues of Miami Life may yield in our collective understanding of the city’s changing urban
cultural landscape, including the experiences and contributions of its racial and ethnic
minorities. For example, in addition to its feature stories on residents or visitors, advertisements
for local nightclubs and revue shows regularly spotlighted Latin American and Caribbean-
descended musicians, performers, and entertainers. These advertisements reveal musical and
cultural shifts and changes in urban culture and demographics. These Miami Life advertisements
publicized acts by well-known musicians, such as Xavier Cugat, and those lesser known today,
such as the DeCastro Sisters and Alzira Camargo.
The digitized issues of Miami Life will likely offer new insight into how ethno-racial identities
were constructed in the New South city of Miami. Influenced by the prevalence of Jim Crow laws,
especially racial segregation, one report published in the December 1949 issue of Miami Life, for
instance, tells the story of a mixed-race woman named Mildred Williams who was arrested for
vagrancy for working “in a Negro bar” (Bond, 1949, p. 3). Because she was light-skinned, the
arresting police officer believed she was white and deemed her workplace “no place for a white
woman” (Bond, 1949, p. 3). Williams, however, stood before a judge at the Court of Crimes and
explained that she was also Black. The news feature editorialized that Williams “could easily
have been regarded as a Latin or a white person. But there was the tinge of Negro blood” (Bond,
1949, p. 3). Similarly, other so-called “vagrants” and people who were criminalized under this
system were thus being adjudicated by a Miami judge for petty crimesa common occurrence
for Black and Brown people in Jim Crow Miami. While three “trespassers from Puerto Rico”
received fifteen days in prison, “eight Negroes were dismissed...on claims of loitering” (Bond,
1949, p. 3).
While the FIU Libraries have been active in promoting digital scholarship via Digital Humanities
workshops, comprehensive LibGuides for digital scholarship, and a readily available Digital
Scholars Studio for student and faculty use with software and other equipment for Digital
Humanities work, Miami Studies has the potential to merge technical skills with historical
methods and practice. Imagine the possibilities for recovering the lived experiences of Miami’s
Black, Indigenous, Latina/o/x and other communities if even fragmental knowledge yielded from
Miami Life were corroborated with, or complemented by, other readily available primary
For example, FIU’s Green Library houses one of the world's most substantial collections of
Caribbean and Latin American music, with a particular strength on music and culture from Cuba.
Donated in 2001 by author, collector, and producer Cristóbal Díaz Ayala, the Díaz Ayala Cuban
and Latin American Popular Music Collection consist of roughly 150,000 items. This includes
45,000 LPs; 15,000 78 RPMs; 5,000 pieces of sheet music; 4,500 cassettes of radio interviews and
programs, music, and other material; and thousands of CDs, photographs, videocassettes, and
paper files (FIU Libraries, 2022a). Select images and word-searchable metadata for this massive
collection have also been added to dPanther. In 2016, the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation
funded a project to preserve and provide controlled access to select 78 RPM sound recordings
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
from the Díaz Ayala Collection. In 2021, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR)
awarded one of their “Recordings at Risk” audio preservation grants to FIU Libraries to digitize
and migrate to digital formats, create metadata, and provide access via dPanther to materials
from the Díaz Ayala Collection originally recorded as 78 RPMs and stored on cassettes. Efforts to
enhance digital access to the Díaz Ayala Collection are currently spearheaded by Verónica
González and Ximena Valdivia of FIU Libraries.
Figure 1. Machito and Graciela performed at the Glen Island Casino in New York in July 1947 (Gottlieb,
These materials can also help researchers better understand the experiences of racial and ethnic
minorities in the United States and abroad. For instance, the lyrics of “Miami Beach Rhumba,”
released in the 1940s by famed bandleader and artist Xavier Cugat speak toward a U.S.-Cuban
experience. With lyrics such as “I found the charm of Old Havana in a rhumba at Miami Beach”
the song reminded his audience that a version of Cuba existed in Miami—long before the Cuban
Revolution of 1959 and the exile of thousands of Cubans who fled the island, most of whom
settled in Miami (Xavier Cugat and His Orchestra, 1958). Cugat’s bilingual 1941 song “¡Viva
Roosevelt!” assured Spanish-speakers that U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt “es nuestro
amigo” (“is our friend”) (Cugat et al., 1941). While rallying the troops for World War II, even
before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the song implored Cugat’s primary audience, clearly
imagined as Latina/o/xs, to “get in the conga line of defense!” (Cugat et al.,1941). From the
images featured in the sheet music to the song’s bilingual lyrics to the same musical
performance, this source yields essential insight into Latina/o/x contributions to war and
American society, political and cultural citizenship, and even Latin American-U.S. foreign
relations (e.g., the Good Neighbor Policy). Similarly, a wealth of resources in these archives
allows a deep analytical comparison of the varying experiences of commercial appeal and success
of artists such as Cugat, who was white and born in Spain, and other musicians, such as Afro-
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
Cuban jazz artist Machito or his stepsister Graciela. Indeed, the Díaz Ayala Cuban and Latin
American Popular Music Collection at FIU is doing critical work in digitizing and preserving this
rare and fragile material, much of which is not readily available elsewhere.
Building Digital Collections in Miami Studies through Post-Custodial Initiatives:
Community Data Curation
Since the Miami Studies initiative is built on amplifying diverse, marginalized, and forgotten or
erased voices, it should be no surprise that its collection approach is rooted in non-extractive
and decolonial methodology. We similarly recognize that the cultural heritage field is
increasingly entering the digital space, thus democratizing access to materials and ensuring that
physical materials are not pressured into leaving their places of origin. The collection-building
efforts, including the digitization of Miami Life, have been mainly post-custodial and digital.
Executed by the WPHL in collaboration with eight community partners around South Florida,
“Community Data Curation: Preserving, Creating, and Narrating Everyday Stories,” represents a
large-scale, local, and post-custodial digital initiative that we hope inspires new works in the
public humanities at large.
In 2020, the Mellon Foundation awarded the WPHL a three-year, $1 million grant to support oral
history collection, digitization of archives, and capacity building in partnership with eight
community partner organizations across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. The project is
spearheaded by Rebecca Friedman, Julio Capó, Jr., Katie Coldiron, and Enrique Rosell. It is
inspired by deep engagement and discussions with Hadassah St. Hubert, a historian and former
postdoctoral researcher at FIU, dLOC and current program officer at the National Endowment for
the Humanities (NEH). The initiative’s eight partner cultural institutions include the Jewish
Museum of Florida-FIU (Miami Beach), Sant La Haitian Neighborhood Center (North Miami),
Historic Hampton House Museum & Cultural Center (Brownsville-Miami), Museum of Graffiti
(Wynwood-Miami), African American Research Library and Cultural Center (AARLCC), Broward
County Library (Fort Lauderdale), Stonewall National Museum & Archives (Fort Lauderdale),
World AIDS Museum and Educational Center (Fort Lauderdale), and Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
(Miami). All but one of the community partners are GLAM institutions. The other, Sant La,
functions primarily as a social service center for Haitians and Haitian Americans in South Florida.
The partners represent a mosaic of South Florida voices, with a keen eye to voices traditionally
absent from the historical record.
Additionally, the partners had different experiences and ambitions for digitization and oral
history collection. AARLCC and Vizcaya, for example, had already been digitizing paper materials
and operating their digital repositories. Therefore, they have used the resources made available
through this grant to support their internal projects. In the case of AARLCC, this has included
collecting oral histories focused on Black voices in Broward County, as well as digitizing the
papers of South Florida’s Dr. Niara Sudarkasa, a significant figure, scholar, and educator who
became the first Black professor in the University of Michigan Department of Anthropology.
Meanwhile, Vizcaya had focused on researching the indigenous origins of the land that their
museum and gardens sit on, with the hopes of creating an institutional land acknowledgment
statement and expanding the well-known history of Vizcaya to include the indigenous stewards
of the land long before the tycoon James Deering built the famous estate in the 1910s.
Launched simultaneously with the NEH-funded Miami Studies Program, at its core, this work
represents a non-extractive collaboration and redistribution of community and public resources.
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
Among the resources the grant funnels to each institutional partner is institutional compensation
for the labor of communicating with FIU and working with trained student interns, new
technologies for digitization and oral history collection, a public programming budget, and a
paid and trained student intern from FIU. The key deliverables of the grant are 10-12 oral
histories from each partner, which will be stored on FIU Libraries’ dPanther repository and,
collectively, provide a kaleidoscope of South Florida voices and experiences at the
intersection of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ability. Additionally, all
partners are given access to additional space on dPanther to store digital materials from their
existing collections should they elect to do so. The partners work with the Digital Archivist
(Coldiron) and the Program Manager (Rosell), who was hired with grant funds to work on this
project. The Digital Archivist works with partners at whatever stage they are at in the
digitization process, including but not limited to, ordering digitization equipment and training
interns and other personnel on how to use it, consulting on metadata creation for digital
materials, and ultimately coordinating the ingest of materials into dPanther with FIU Digital
Collections staff. The Program Manager’s duties include coordinating the FIU student interns,
payment for institutional liaisons, public programming and communications, and much of the
day-to-day operation of the grant. Rosell also uses his extensive background in
audiovisual production to aid partner institutions in recording oral histories and other such
As of this writing, all partners, represented as different thumbnails, have been set up on the
dPanther homepage. Two of the eight partners have already contributed some digital content
that is live on dPanther. All eight partners have elected to utilize the additional dPanther space
to store some of their digital materials for various reasons. Some have expressed that they prefer
to avoid managing their public-facing digital repository, while others have cited its high cost.
Others have noted that appearing in the publicly accessible dPanther depository at FIU could
expand their reach and audience. Regardless of their decisions, we support our partners in
implementing or further implementing sustainable processes that will live beyond the grant's
lifetime. These future deliverables include documentation of digitization and oral history
collecting processes created by the Digital Archivist, Program Manager, and FIU Digital
Collections staff that will be compiled into an all-encompassing manual, as well as
offering support to see partners create an internal system that works for them to manage
the digital content they are creating or stewarding. We are also creating training videos for our
partners on using oral history and digitization equipment, with two already live on YouTube and
archived in a WPHL-specific collection in the FIU Digital Commons. Similarly, coinciding
with the Miami Studies Program, regular workshops are offered that discuss theory, methods,
and practice for a wide range of relevant skills and competencies, from conducting oral
histories to curation to archiving. In this vein, the vision of a community-driven and community-
curated method in public humanities insists on non-extractive and decolonial practices (Caswell
et al., 2021).
As to be expected, many of the collections of the community partners are direct reflections of
the diversity and texture of South Florida. This includes Latino/a/x voices from within the
Miami community, such as that of Pedro Zamora, a Cuban-born immigrant who settled in Miami
during the Mariel boatlift and later starred in MTV’s The Real World as an openly gay and HIV-
positive man. In these and many other capacities, Zamora dedicated much of his short life to
advocating for people with HIV/AIDS and other important causes (Gave, 2022). The World
AIDS Museum recently hosted an exhibition of materials related to Zamora’s life and activism. It
worked with the Zamora family to digitize these materials, hoping to make them available
through dPanther.
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
Two other community partners, the Historic Hampton House Museum & Cultural Center and the
Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, have already conducted and uploaded oral histories to dPanther.
The Historic Hampton House was a key site featured in the Negro Motorist Green Book, the
guidebook first published by a Black postal worker and writer named Victor Hugo Green, who
listed safe, or safer, places for Black people to eat and sleep in the face of racial segregation
and violence. Today it is a museum and community space, saved from demolition in the early
2000s by the efforts of Dr. Enid Pinkney, the first Black president of the Dade Heritage Trust,
and other community members who shared her vision for preserving the site and the stories and
lessons cemented into its structure. More recently, the historic site has garnered new attention
with the success of the Regina King-directed 2020 film One Night in Miami, which narrates a
fictional meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), Jim Brown, and Sam Cooke
in one of the motel’s rooms. To commemorate Clay's infamous win over Sonny Liston on February
25, 1964, the Historic Hampton House teamed up with the WPHL for the multi-day “The Greatest
Weekend” that included panels, performances, reflections, and other community-oriented
events held in February 2022. As part of this, we welcomed photojournalist Bob Gomel, who
captured the iconic photographs of Malcolm X taking a photo of Clay and others sitting at a
counter in the Hampton House Hotel. The team recorded an oral history of Gomel recounting his
experiences at the site as a Life Magazine photographer. He described how he found a ride from
Miami Beach, where the heavyweight fight took place, to Brownsville, where the Hampton House
Hotel was located, and remembered how he had to stand on the counter of the hotel café to
capture some of those famous images (Gomel, 2022). Also contributing an oral history at this
event was Dr. Khalilah Camacho Ali, the former wife of the late Muhammad Ali. In her testimony,
she recounted her time spent as a guest with Ali and their children at the Hampton House Hotel
and Villas, which was documented in a photo spread in the April 1969 issue of Ebony magazine
(Camacho Ali, 2022).
The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU launched a project to collect oral histories from South Florida’s
Jewish community and its experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. With the support of the
Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), Museum Educator Luna Goldberg and Gabriela
Garcia Acevedo, an FIU student intern, collected powerful stories about how people navigated
different aspects of their identities during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, FIU student
Brian García (2020) discussed his family’s background, which includes Spanish and Moroccan Jews
who then “sort of mingled in Venezuela” before coming to South Florida (García, 2020, 00:00:49).
As an enrolled undergraduate student when the pandemic started, he relayed how he was on a
Birthright trip to Israel when news reports began to emerge about the outbreak in China, and
how the pandemic ultimately rendered most of his undergraduate career as taking place off
campus (García, 2020).4 While only these two partners have uploaded oral histories to dPanther
as of this writing, the next few months will no doubt yield more critical stories at the intersection
of South Florida’s many communities and experiences.
Preserving individual voices and lived experiences helps provide the rich texture needed to
understand better the entangled ways that race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, age, and
ability have historically coalescedand often continue to do soin this urban space and, indeed,
beyond. These digital contributions to the public humanities are necessary for moving us forward,
healing, and shifting course.
Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
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DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
1 See Capó (2022) and Capó & Gillespie (2022).
2 For examples, see Capó (2017), Castillo (2022), Connolly (2014), Green (2017), Mas (2022), Peña
(2013), and Rose (2015) among several others.
3Also see Portes (2020).
4 The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU also stewards collections related to Cuban Jews in South
Florida and beyond. For more on this topic, see Levine (1993) and Behar (2009).
We wish to thank our other colleagues at the WPHL: Rebecca Friedman and Enrique Rosell. We
also wish to thank Jamie Rogers, Rebecca Bakker, Kelly Rowan of the FIU Digital Collections
Center, and Isabel Brador of The Wolfsonian Museum-FIU. Most importantly, this work is only
possible with the many individuals and community partners who generously welcomed us and
trusted us with this work. We also wish to thank Gayle Williams, the Latin American and
Caribbean Studies Librarian at FIU Libraries, whose insights from her time at FIU and in Latin
American and Caribbean librarianship have been extremely valuable. We are forever grateful to
Hadassah St. Hubert, whose voice and vision for digital scholarship, community engagement, and
collaboration fuel many of the WPHL’s ongoing projects.
Ariza, M., Fleshler, D., & Krischer Goodman, C. (2020, December 3). Secrecy and spin: How
Florida’s governor misled the public on the COVID-19 pandemic. South Florida Sun-
Beauregard, R. (2002). New Urbanism: Ambiguous Certainties. Journal of Architectural and
Planning Research, 19(3), 181-194.
Behar, R. (2009). An island called home: Returning to Jewish Cuba. Rutgers University Press.
Bond. (1949, December 17). Call the next case: White or colored? Miami Life.
Burnett, J. (2019, February 13). Inside the largest and most controversial shelter for migrant
children in the U.S. NPR.
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Bustamante, M. J., & Manzor, L. (2021). Mariel@40: An introduction. Anthurium, 17(2).
Camacho Ali, K. (2022, February 26). Oral History Interview with Khalilah Camacho Ali.
Interviewed by Coldiron, K. dPanther Digital Collections Repository; The Historic
Hampton House Museum and Cultural Center.
Capó, J., Jr. (2017, February 17). Best Picture winner ‘Moonlight’ is a window into Florida's
past. Time.
Capó, J., Jr. (2017). Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before 1940. University of North
Carolina Press.
Capó, Jr., J. (2020, June 1). The police chief who inspired Trump’s tweet glorifying violence.
The Washington Post.
Capó, J., Jr., & Friedman, R. (2021). Why we need a Miami School of Urbanism. The Metropole:
The Official Blog of the Urban History Association.
Capó, J., Jr., & Gillespie, T. (2022, September 14). The ‘Florida Man’ is notorious. Here’s
where the meme came from. The Washington Post.
Castillo, T. (2022). Working in the Magic City: Moral economy in early twentieth-century
Miami. University of Illinois Press.
Caswell, M., Douglas, J., Chow, J., Bradshaw, R., Mallick, S., Karthikeyan, N., Jules, B., Solis,
G., Field, J., Robinson, M., Gonzales, P., Rodriguez, K., Saldaña Perez, J. A., &
Robinson-Sweet, A. (2021). “Come correct or don’t come at all:” Building more
equitable relationships between archival studies scholars and community archives
[White paper]. UCLA.
Caves, R. W. (2004). Encyclopedia of the city. Routledge.
CBS Miami. (2019, February 18). Trump confronts Maduro regime in strong-worded speech from
Miami's FIU campus [Video]. YouTube.
Connolly, N. D. B. (2014). A world more concrete: Real estate and the remaking of Jim Crow
South Florida. University of Chicago Press.
Crooks N., & Mills, M. (2022, May 24). Miami Mayor Suarez tells Davos he still takes salary in
bitcoin. Bloomberg.
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Cugat, X.; Valdes M.; Stokes, L.; Pola, E; Steininger, Fl; Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra; Cugat
Chorus. (1941) ¡Viva Roosevelt! [Song]. Columbia. Retrieved from
De Palma, Brian. (1983). Scarface. Universal Pictures.
Feito, M. (2022, September 1). Hurricane Andrew changed preparedness forever. WLRN.
FIU Libraries. (2022a). The Díaz-Ayala Cuban and Latin American Popular Music Collection.
FIU Libraries. (2022b). Operation Pedro Pan.
García, B. (2020, October 13). Oral history interview with Brian Garcia. Interviewed by
Goldberg, L. dPanther Digital Collections Repository; Jewish Museum of Florida.
Gave, M. (2022, April 26). Call me Peter: 50 years of Pedro Zamora at World AIDS Museum.
Gomel, B. (2022, February 25). Oral History Interview with Bob Gomel. Interviewed by Colyer,
J. dPanther Digital Collections Repository; The Historic Hampton House Museum and
Cultural Center.
González v. Douglas, 269F.Supp.3d 948, (D. Ariz. 2017).
Gottlieb, W. P. (1947, July). Portrait of Machito and Graciella Grillio, Glen Island Casino, New
York, N.Y., ca July 1947 [Photograph]. Library of Congress.
Green, N. (2019, November 4). As seas rise, Miami’s black communities fear displacement from
the high ground. WLRN.
Green, S. (2017, January 30). Tracing black racial and spatial politics in South Florida via
memory. Journal of Urban History, 44(6), 1176-1196.
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Mas, C. (2022). Culture in the clinic: Miami and the making of modern medicine. The
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Peña, S. (2013). ¡Oye loca!: From the Mariel boatlift to gay Cuban Miami. University of
Minnesota Press.
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Miami [Video]. YouTube.
Portes, A. (2020, October 16). A tale of three cities: The rise of Dubai, Singapore, and Miami
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Making Miami’s History and Present More Accessible
The International Journal of Information, Diversity, & Inclusion, 6(4), 2022
ISSN 2574-3430,
DOI: 10.33137/ijidi.v6i4.38943
Katie L. Coldiron ( is the Digital Archivist of the Wolfsonian Public Humanities
Lab at Florida International University. She holds an M.S. in Information Studies from the
University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Florida.
Her research and professional interests include Latin America and the Caribbean (with emphasis
on Cuba and Colombia), South Florida, digital humanities, public-facing scholarship, and
postcustodial partnerships. She is also a PhD student in FIU’s Department of History.
Julio Capó, Jr., Ph.D. ( is Deputy Director of the Wolfsonian Public Humanities
Lab and Associate Professor of History at Florida International University. He is a transnational
historian with a distinct emphasis on the United States’ relationship with the Caribbean and Latin
America. Capó’s publications, grant-funded projects, curated exhibitions, and other public-
facing works heavily focus on recovering voices and stories that have, by design, been
systematically erased or marginalized. His first book, Welcome to Fairyland: Queer Miami before
1940 (UNC Press, 2017), received five book awards. It highlights how transnational forces
especially migration, trade, and tourism to and from the Caribbeanshaped Miami’s queer past.
A former journalist, his work has also appeared in Time, CNN, and The Washington Post, where
he now serves as an editor for its Made by History section.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
The literature on “global cities”, following a publication by Saskia Sassen of a book under the same title, has focused on those prime centers of the capitalist economy that concentrate on command-and-control functions in finance and trade worldwide. New York, London, Tokyo, and sometimes, Frankfurt and Paris are commonly cited as such centers. In recent years, however, another set of mercantile and financial centers have arisen. They reproduce, on a regional basis, the features and functions of the prime global cities. Dubai, Miami, and Singapore have emerged during the first quarter of the XXI century as such new regional centers. This paper explores the history of the three; the mechanisms that guided their ascent to their present position; and the pitfalls—political and ecological—that may compromise their present success. The rise of these new global cities from a position of insignificance is primarily a political story, but the stages that the story followed and the key participants in it are quite different. A systematic comparison of the three cities offer a number of lessons for urban scholarship and development policies. Such lessons are supplemented by the experiences of other cities that attempted to achieve or sustain a similar global status but failed, for various reasons, to do so. Such experiences are also discussed in the conclusion.
This book reveals the working-class history of Miami in the early twentieth century. The expansion of Miami from a small town to a big city resulted from the effort of thousands of workers to build, maintain, and foster a viable community. The city’s labor history reveals persistent class struggle even though it was not marked by large, prolonged labor strikes and violence. The book demonstrates how class struggle occurred along the axis of class harmony discourse. One end represented a drive toward a conservative framing of class hierarchy with docile or recalcitrant workers at the bottom and benevolent, wise businessmen at the top. The other end embraced a cooperative vision of class relations driven by moral economy that accepted class hierarchy yet prioritized fairness and the dignity of the worker. The book’s focus is workers: their migration to a growing city far down the Florida peninsula; their economic struggle amid a seasonal tourist economy with endemic irregular work; and how their effort to organize for their economic well-being—whether for Black economic rights, unionization, or the unemployment movement—revealed a continuous process of community formation. Workers helped establish a home labor ethic that put an emphasis on hiring local workers. Black activists (labor and civil), labor unions, and the unemployment movement show how the drive for moral economy defined Miami’s working-class history.
Poised on the edge of the United States and at the center of a wider Caribbean world, today’s Miami is marketed as an international tourist hub that embraces gender and sexual difference. As Julio Capo Jr. shows in this fascinating history, Miami’s transnational connections reveal that the city has been a queer borderland for over a century. In chronicling Miami’s queer past from its 1896 founding through 1940, Capo shows the multifaceted ways gender and sexual renegades made the city their own.Drawing from a multilingual archive, Capo unearths the forgotten history of “fairyland,” a marketing term crafted by boosters that held multiple meanings for different groups of people. In viewing Miami as a contested colonial space, he turns our attention to migrants and immigrants, tourism, and trade to and from the Caribbeanty particularly the Bahamas, Cuba, and Haitity to expand the geographic and methodological parameters of urban and queer history. Recovering the world of Miami’s old saloons, brothels, immigration checkpoints, borders, nightclubs, bars, and cruising sites, Capo makes clear how critical gender and sexual transgression is to understanding the city and the broader region in all its fullness.
As far back as the New Deal era, South Florida’s white power brokers wanted African Americans to live in the northwest section of then Dade County and away from the region’s lucrative seaside. Even today, however, people of color, many of Bahamian descent, remain in Miami’s bayside Coconut Grove community, but they do so amid gentrification and wealthy South American neighbors. Such ongoing settlement and the eventual migration of people of African descent to the northwest section of the county by the late 1960s fit into a larger narrative of black self-determination in Florida. This article explores such settlement and migratory patterns and how they fit into a larger black resistance tradition dating back to the nineteenth century.
Offering new insights into Florida’s position within the cultural legacy of the South, The Struggle for Black Freedom in Miami explores the long fight for civil rights in one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. Chanelle N. Rose examines how the sustained tourism and rapid demographic changes that characterized Miami for much of the twentieth century undermined constructions of blackness and whiteness that remained more firmly entrenched in other parts of the South. The convergence of cultural practices in Miami from the American South and North, the Caribbean, and Latin America created a border community that never fit comfortably within the paradigm of the Deep South experience. As white civic elites scrambled to secure the city’s burgeoning reputation as the “Gateway to the Americas,” an influx of Spanish-speaking migrants and tourists had a transformative effect on conventional notions of blackness. Business owners and city boosters resisted arbitrary racial distinctions and even permitted dark-skinned Latinos access to public accommodations that were otherwise off limits to nonwhites in the South. At the same time, civil-rights activists waged a fierce battle against the antiblack discrimination and violence that lay beneath the public image of Miami as a place relatively tolerant of racial diversity. In its exploration of regional distinctions, transnational forces, and the effect of both on the civil rights battle, The Struggle for Black Freedom in Miami complicates the black/white binary and offers a new way of understanding the complexity of racial traditions and white supremacy in southern metropolises like Miami. © 2015 by Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.
Over the last few decades, New Urbanism has emerged as a formidable alternative to high modernism and postmodernism as approaches to urban design and planning. Its proponents have touted its practices with great zeal and publicized a coherent doctrine regarding the building of suburbs and the redevelopment of cities. Close scrutiny, though, and as might be expected, finds inconsistencies and contradictions. Through an analysis of the design guidelines and implementation procedures of New Urbanism, this paper uncovers a deeply rooted and unavoidable ambiguity. New Urbanism is less of an alternative than its proponents attest; it retains much of the modernism it had hoped to displace and more than a hint of the postmodernism it had hoped to avoid.