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Proud to be from Hialeah? This Instagram account will make you even prouder

Rick Perez wants you to love Hialeah as much as he does.

This Hialeah native got a little tired of jokes at his hometown’s expense.

“Hialeah often gets a bad rap,” he says. “The perception of my city is based on a lot of negative stereotypes, so I thought about a way to showcase my own personal experience of growing up here, which was honestly great.”

The result: The Instagram account @hialeahlove1925, highlighting all that is awesome about Hialeah. Perez started the account about two years ago, hoping to change hearts and minds.

What does he love about the place?

“I love how welcoming Hialeah truly is, the genuine warmth of its residents and the way this city allows for so much upward mobility,” he says, adding that it’s “where so many success stories begin.”

We also love Hialeah, so Perez shared with us his favorite facts about what makes Hialeah great. We are on board with all of them.

Vicky Bakery was born there

All that is righteous and delicious in this world came from an oven in Hialeah.

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In the 50’s Antonio and Galesia were teenagers, they worked together in a bakery called “La Vencedora” in Cuba, he worked as a pastry baker and she was a cashier, he notice her right away but sadly she didn’t notice him. Antonio Cao is one persistent man though, he would leave her love notes everyday until she slowly started to notice him, it took three years but amid the sweet aroma of guava “Pastelitos” they fell in love. They married, started a family and dreamed of opening a bakery of their own. Sadly in the 60’s the Castro Revolution made dreaming in Cuba an impossible task, so the young family left their beloved island and started a new dream in America. The Caos family arrived in 1968 and settled in Hialeah, Antonio worked a grueling three jobs while Galecia made leather goods. Their incredible hard work and drive made it possible for them to scrape enough money to buy their first bakery near Miami’s Jackson High school but just as they were gaining traction the store burned down; after that they opened their second bakery right on 49 street in Hialeah but that store didn’t fare well and closed down. Then in 1972 the Caos came across a small bakery in the east side of Hialeah called Vicky Bakery, the owners were divorcing and wanted out, the Caos bought it decided to keep the name. Today Vicky Bakery is a South Florida institution, with 20 locations, chances are there is one near your house. Their success is unparalleled in their industry, they have expanded well beyond their niche market and have bakeries as far north as Plantation and plans to expand even more. Still owned by the Caos family clan, now run by a third generation Cao, Vicky Bakery is the gold standard of Cuban bakeries and while their expansion might bring some changes, you can rest assured one thing will not change... they have used the same guava “Pastelito” recipe since Antonio learned it more than 50 years ago in his native Cuba. #hialeah

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A Hialeah guy landed on the moon

Nobody from Kendall ever landed on the moon, did they? No.

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Decades before Elon Musk was even thinking of hurling a Tesla car towards Mars, a young Hialeah boy dreamed of space. Born in 1936 Ken Mattingly grew up right here in our town, he was a bright young man with a spark of greatness in his eyes but even then he shattered all expectations in 1972 when he became a member of one of the most exclusive groups ever in the history of the world. This Hialeah kid became one of only 24 astronauts to ever land on the surface of the moon. In a twist of fate he was supposed to be the pilot for the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, you might recall this tragic mission from the 1995 Oscar winner movie with Tom Hanks. Ken Mattingly was removed from team just 3 days before the launch, due to possible exposure to measles( which turns out he never contracted) by pure luck he missed the dramatic in-flight explosion that crippled the spacecraft. In one of NASA’s most harrowing hours, they had to figure out how to save the astronauts who were stuck in a small lunar module, freezing and quickly running out of water and food after 4 days. Mattingly hurried back to NASA and ran all sort of flight simulations that were critical to their survival. It would be a few months later in the Apollo 16 mission that Mattingly engraved his name in history when he landed on the moon, he would spend 21 days in space, he said “Not once did I get tired of looking at Earth” In the “Apollo 13 “ film his character was played by the talented (and underrated) Gary Sinise (see pic #5). The city of Hialeah honored this great Hialeah pride by naming a park after him and HML high school also named their planetarium after him. #hialeah

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The Coppertone Girl went to Hialeah High

You can’t even begin to compete with this, Brickell.

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Perhaps the most recognized and beloved little girl in all of marketing history, the Coppertone baby is among Miami’s most iconic symbols. It all started in 1944 when Benjamin Green invented Coppertone Suntan lotion right here in South Florida, by 1950 he sold the company to a group of investors who turned to Tally Embry advertising Co. they came up with the idea of a wholesome little girl with tan lines and a frisky dog; the investors loved the pitch and green lighted the ad campaign. This is when the advertising Co. commissioned Hialeah based commercial artist Pete Porter to paint a series of oil paintings based on their instructions. Mr. Porter accepted the offer and luckily he had his own muse to inspire him, his 3 years old daughter Robyn Porter became his cheerful model as she played around their modest house’s backyard. Robyn Porter was born and raised in our city, she attended DuPuis, Palm Spings and Hialeah High. (see pic #3) yup!, Coppertone baby is a Hialeah kid Coppertone was sold to Schering-Plough in 1957 and a large warehouse fire burned most of the archives, including the original oil paintings. Thats when the company called on world famous Pin-up artist Joyce Ballantyne who re-created the now iconic image and that updated version became the inspiration for the giant 33 feet famous sign made by Tropicalites in 1958. (The Hialeah painting predates this version by 4 years) see pic #2. The celebrated image has remained popular for over 60 years now, in 1965 a three year old and future 2 times Oscar winner Jodie Foster made her acting debut as the Coppertone girl in a TV commercial. But what did Robyn Porter think if her father’s creation? She didn’t care much for it; she said all the boys used to tease her in school ️ #hialeah

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Agua de Violetas was made in a Hialeah warehouse

That’s right. Hialeah is why your baby smells so good.

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Chances are that if you walk into a house in Hialeah you might find some "agua de violetas". This iconic fragrance is gentle and baby friendly. Actress Eva Mendez recently said that she loves the way it smells and she keeps a bottle in every room. It all started with Agustin Reyes who created his namesake company in 1927 in Havana. As a young man he was fascinated by plants, their flowers and their scents. He traveled to France to study the art of perfumery. On his return to Cuba he was inspired by the Caribbean sea breeze and local flora. He created "locion de violetas rusas" it became a tremendous hit. Used by all in the island wether rich or poor, white or black, it became the cologne of all Cuban people. Sadly with the onset of the Cuban revolution, his company was targeted for its success and taken away from him in 1960. A lifetime of hard work and inspiration... gone. The Reyes family decided to leave and come to the U.S. Agustin Reyes took one of the last ferries from Havana to Key West, he carried with him a notebook full of his hand written formulas. He was now an old man, frail and nearly blind, the usually cold hearted guards ignored him and he was able to smuggle the formulas into the U.S. It was the last time he would be able to smell the ocean breeze of his homeland that had once inspired him so much. Once located here, the Reyes family refused to give up their dreams and opened a warehouse in Hialeah and started all over again. Today his grandson runs the company and their "Royal violets" cologne, which uses the original formula, has become a cultural icon for the Cuban community and many other hispanics across South Florida. #hialeah

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Florida loves flamingos because of Hialeah

So much better than your nasty seagulls, Miami Beach.

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Florida has no shortage of iconic images, from our beaches, Disney world, space shuttles and yet when Floridians were asked what their most iconic symbol was? They overwhelmingly picked the pink flamingo, Florida's unofficial mascot. "Miami Vice" opening intro had flamingos, the Florida lottery uses a flamingo and our city of Hialeah has them in our city seal as well and of course a lot of bright pink plastic ones across "abuela's" lawns everywhere. Ironically though, the bird was hunted to extinction by the 1850's in Florida. The love affair with flamingos exists only because of our city. Joseph E. Widener was the incredibly wealthy owner of the Hialeah race track, he instructed his architect to add an infield lake filled with palms trees and pink flamingos. Having none here in Florida, they imported 20 flamingos from Cuba, which quickly flew back days later. They were determined to have flamingos so they imported another 20 but this time they clipped their wings. It took a while but eventually they thrived here. The exotic birds were released right before the races and were just as popular as the horses themselves. As tourists flocked to Hialeah, they fell in love with the flamingos and brought back home little mementos in the shape of flamingo cups, pins and all kinds of souvenirs. However the flamingo craze really went into overdrive in 1957 when Don Featherstone (last pic) fresh off art school, created the iconic plastic bright pink flamingo lawn ornament and just like that our Hialeah flamingos were everywhere! #hialeah

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Lucy Lopez from Power 96 grew up there

What more proof do you need that the city is awesome?

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Little Lucy was a wildly curious child, she loved singing, painting, a voracious book reader, a fireball of raw creative energy. A big part of who Lucy is today, comes from her “Abuelita” Amelia, whom she just simply called “Mamá”. Since her parents worked long hours, it was Abuelita who raised her; she worked as a “Costurera” from home, fixing women’s clothing, almost every dress Lucy wore, was made by her grandma’s tireless hands. Abuelita shared with her stories of simpler times growing up in Cuba’s countryside, she taught her to be humble and work hard. Sadly, Abuelita’s health deteriorated, Lucy spent most of her teenage years caring for her, it made her grow up fast. She passed away while she was in college, it was the darkest time of her life, she had lost her biggest supporter, her oldest friend, her Mamá . A few years ago, Lucy was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor, she prayed and tried to stay positive, but it was scary; it was then that she remembered an old Barnett Bank check she had kept all these years, it was from her Abuelita who had saved a little bit of money for months and proudly given it to her for her 13th birthday. Lucy had her signature on the check tattooed on her wrist, the tattoo artist was intrigued and asked why? She looked at him, her eyes watery and answered, “I want to make sure that just in case I die, they know who to return me to.” Perhaps just as she took care of her when she was little, Abuelita once more watched over her and the tumor was removed safely. Lucy Lopez went on to become a wife and mother of two beautiful girls (Oldest one is named Amelia ️). She also joined @power965 family back in 2001; her candid and relatable on-air personality is incredibly refreshing. Her radio style is a mix of growing up with Howard Stern and Cristina; she can be loud and animated, but she also meditates for an hour each day. Her show is spontaneous and unscripted, but she is a prolific writer, with an exceptionally bright mind who graduated Pace H.S when she was just 16 years old and spent her college summers living in Europe. She is funny, smart and kind; can’t think of anyone who I would rather have represent Hialeah than her.

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The inventor of Flanigan’s opened his first lounge in Hialeah

If you live in Miami, you know Flanigan’s is life. And it all began in the wonder that is Hialeah.

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Joseph “Big Daddy” Flanigan had a rugged bearded face, was 6ft tall and a sturdy 240 pounds, he looked like a mix between Hemingway and a WWE wrestler. His cheerful face is iconic across South Florida and in Hialeah his restaurant has achieved legendary status. “Big Daddy” was larger than life, a big colorful man, with a big heart and a contagious smile. He drove a flashy green convertible, dressed in bright green shirts with gold chains and a flamboyant personality to match the look. He was born in 1929 Pennsylvania, joined the Navy, came back home, got married and got a job as a stockbroker but something was missing in his life. Always an avid fisherman and outdoors lover, he was sick of the cold, so he moved to South Florida in 1959 and decided to open a business, he picked Hialeah to open his first “Big Daddy” liquor store/lounge(see pic #3). He had a tireless work ethic and in just a few years, he became a giant in the entertainment industry with a chain of lounges and clubs. Using his stockbroker knowledge, he took his company public and raised millions in Wall Street which he then used to expand dramatically; at one point in the late 70’s he had over 100 locations. Flanigan’s fast growth was fueled by a lot of debt, by the late 70’s inflation started going up, causing his interest payments to skyrocket. He drank heavily, by 1982 he started selling assets trying to avoid complete collapse but by 1985 he had no choice but to seek bankruptcy protection. It was a painful bankruptcy, a lot of his friends and family had invested in his company, they were all wiped out. It took three years but he managed to pull through, the process changed him as well, down to just 8 locations, he now drove a minivan and sobered up. He focused on turning around the company, ditching the drinking lounge image and pivoting to family friendly restaurants. He died in 2005 but his legacy remains strong with 23 locations across South Florida but none as special as ours #hialeah️

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