Miami’s Little Havana has Latin American folklore, art, food and music. And now it has a new flag that’s created a social media spat.
The design unveiled last week is a fusion of the Cuban and U.S. flags, surrounded by the flags of 22 Latin American nations and a rooster in a lead role.
The flag also carries the words, “Little Havana, U.S.A. la que tiene libertad (the one that has freedom).” Conceived by Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo and unveiled by Francis Suarez and Carlos Gimenez, the mayors of the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, respectively, the flag was not well received on social media.
“The most ghastly thing human eyes have ever seen,” said one post. Another said it was “a badly done Meme.”
“Our residents like the flag. This is a new start for Little Havana,” countered Carollo in a telephone interview.
But reactions posted on Twitter tell a different story.
“That’s not a flag. It’s a table for playing dominoes,” said one tweet. Another sarcastically asked if the “gloriously bad” design had been the work of a committee.
“It’s a nice painting, but did anybody think how it would look on a flagpole flapping in the wind?” asked another. A fourth was more direct: “It’s the ugliest flag I have ever seen in my life.”
Carollo said the posts were the work of a “a tiny group of local admirers of Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl (who) jammed the city’s Twitter account with criticisms of the flag. “It’s incredible that a simple phrase that speaks of freedom draws all those rats out of the sewers,” he added in Spanish.
Carollo also posted worm emojis to many of the criticisms, a reference to the late Fidel Castro’s habit of describing Cuban exiles and others who oppose the Castro regime as “worms.”
The artist who designed the flag, Luis Manuel Rodríguez, who was born in Regla, a municipality across from Havana harbor, said he wanted to “happily represent” all residents of the city.
Rodríguez said his goal was to avoid “the formality” and “the plainness” of other flags while still finding a way to fuse the U.S. and Cuban flags.
“The rooster represents Little Havana and the Cuban identity,” said the artist. “That little animal is a fighter. He’s familiar, elegant and very brave.”
Rodríguez said he did not try to offend by painting the Cuban flag bigger than the U.S. flag, and said he wanted to celebrate the early Cubans who settled in what became Little Havana.
“God gave me the gift of painting,” he said. “I wanted to represent all Hispanics.”
The artist added that he designed the flag for free. “I gave away the flag. It did not cost anything. There are criticisms; nothing is perfect. But I am pleased with my work,” he said.
Carollo said the flag was “a Christmas gift” for all residents of Little Havana.
Some media outlets also criticized the Carollo flag, with The Miami New Times calling it “a horrible nightmare.”
“If you’re staring at the monstrosity above and wondering, Why does that look like a Facebook meme designed by a baby boomer? that’s because it basically is a Facebook meme designed by a baby boomer,” wrote Jerry Iannelli.
Independent blogger Siro Cuartel, who frequently pokes fun at Cuban issues, said he thought he had seen everything in Miami “until the Little Havana flag appeared.”
“A fusion of flags with a rooster stuck in the middle would have forced Cuban painter Michel Mirabal to jump off the top floor of the Freedom Tower … and the excellent Cuban painter Mariano Rodríguez to shudder in his grave,” Cuartel wrote.
“Naive? No. Kitsch? Yes, and very,” added Cuartel, a pseudonym for the main editor of the blog El Lumpen. It pained him, he added, that Little Havana residents will “have to live with the shame of that flag.”
These are other reactions to the flag posted on City of Miami social media: