`Miami-Dade commissioners are slated to wrestle the emotionally charged issue of how to preserve the 55-year history of Miami’s Cuban-exile community — and, more important, where.
Thursday, activists will present their dream plan for the Cuban Exile History Museum. Like many other proposals — too many, at this point — this one would be on Biscayne Bay, specifically the coveted Parcel B, a slab of land behind AmericanAirlines Arena. The land has been long promised as a park — a spectacular “front lawn” — in what is now a concrete, traffic-clogged jungle.
As with the proposal for David Beckham’s soccer stadium, champions of open spaces and protecting what little bay view is left oppose the museum idea. Parcel B sits on hallowed soil, the only bayside lot not yet developed south of the art and science museums. They are right. Adding the exile museum to the site would break a long-standing promise to the people of Miami, one that commissioners should honor.
In essence, museum proponents have come up with a fitting tribute to honor the presence and legacy of Cuban exiles in an elevated, 70-foot-tall, $120-million privately-funded building that would allow the acre underneath it to function as a public park, architect Robert Chisholm told the Editorial Board.
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“We’re not taking away the use of the property as an urban waterfront park,” Mr. Chisholm said.
Still, it’s the right concept in the wrong place.
A place to commemorate the saga of South Florida’s Cuban exiles, of lives rooted in tragedy and triumph, is a wonderful idea. But not on Parcel B; not across from the historic Freedom Tower, the iconic building that truly symbolizes the plight of el exilio; not on land that should be open green space in a community that, national surveys show, has too little of it.
Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. — one of three commissioners who presented the resolution — has said he’s “optimistic” the full commission will support the resolution.
“The Cuban-American community has a history that deserves to be told,” Mr. Bovo said. And he’s right. But the museum would be covering much of the same ground that Miami Dade College is about to present at its Freedom Tower. MDC, with the assistance of the Miami Herald, is creating an exile-experience exhibit. The unveiling, featuring photographs from Herald archives and artifacts from Operation Pedro Pan, will be in September. Other exhibits will follow. Also, a smaller Cuban museum in Coral Gables, plus the University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection and HistoryMiami are already preserving exile history.
The Miami Herald’s involvement with the Freedom Tower project has no bearing on its position on the location of the proposed Cuban-exile museum. It’s not a matter of blocking competition nor is it a slap to the exile community, though many, no doubt, will see it as such.
They shouldn’t. Preserving Parcel B is a matter of prudent public policy in a development-crazed community. It’s a matter of commissioners showing the proper stewardship; it’s a matter of keeping a promise.
Commissioner Xavier Suarez has an attractive Plan B. He told the Herald Editorial Board that the museum could be moved to an area further north within Museum Park, a more-appropriate venue. The idea has not taken hold, he says, but it should.
Ever since Cubans began fleeing Fidel Castro’s communist regime, their contribution to South Florida has been immense. Those contributions should be celebrated — but not on Parcel B.