The Wynwood community in Miami lost one of its most vocal and vigilant activists this week. Dorothy Quintana died at 101-years-old on March 13, 2011. She died of old age, advocating for her community up to her last days.
Quintana dedicated more than half of her life to fighting crime and drugs in Wynwood — a historically Puerto Rican community between downtown Miami and Little Haiti.
Quintana was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Cuba. But for more than 50 years, she called Wynwood home.
For decades, her old, modest home housed the hungry and the sick. She fed Haitian immigrants when they first started arriving in Miami in the late 70s. And in the 80s, she replaced her dining room table and chairs with beds for new Cuban refugees.
Some in the area knew her as Dottie. Others called her the "Mayoress of Wynwood."
She married twice. She had no children of her own, but those in her community say they all feel like her children.
"I love her. Always, always she was working for the people,” said Said Martinez, program director at De Hostos Senior Center where Quintana was a board member. “She took your problem as her problem. Until she gets the good results for you, she does not stop," Martinez said.
Martinez would help Quintana get ready for the hundreds of local and state award ceremonies in her honor.
"I did her makeup, hair. She was so sweet, she would get so happy, she was like a child,” Martinez said before pausing at the thought of a memory.
“She had a gun,” she said laughing. “That’s so funny because do you imagine, 101 years, with a gun.”
Quintana also had a full surveillance system around her house. Martinez said Quintana set up the cameras in part because she lived alone and in part because she worked to expose criminals.
Martinez said Quintana would drive around Wynwood at night and “when she observing something wrong, she’d call the police, in order to protect her community. It’s incredible, incredible.”
Pablo Canton with the Neighborhood Enhancement Team is one of the many people who drove Quintana around Wynwood. He said she would point out the drug dealers and abandoned properties that attracted crime.
"Dorothy was one of those that we would give the priorities. She would say, ‘hey, you know this one’s really bad, I’m getting a lot of complaints,’ And we would place a priority on the ones she would call.”
Canton said the thing he’ll remember most about Quintana is her drive to help people and improve the Wynwood community.
“She was full of energy. At that age, you would figure, ‘Well, I’m going to stay home and watch TV and read the paper. But not Dorothy,” Canton said. “And even though she never drove a car, she always find somebody to drive her around. And she would go everywhere. I would see her in all the commission meetings."
And Wilfredo Gort, Chairman of the City of Miami Commission, said she always spoke her mind at those meetings.
“She would hit you with a cane. Sometimes she used to get pretty upset at people so she would bang the tables with her cane. That was the type of thing she would do.”
Gort knew Quintana for nearly 35 years. He last saw her three weeks ago, at a Commission meeting.
Quintana was trying to get funding for an agency that provides transportation to senior citizens in Wynwood.
Even then, in her final weeks, Gort said, she was the same, passionate Dorothy.
“She had someone assisting her because she was blind at the time. But she was able to be there and speak very loudly. She got up there and she gave them hell.”
The Commission decided to fund the program.
Quintana died two days before she could see it happen.