After some back and forth among city commissioners, the area designated as the Brothers to the Rescue memorial plaza in Sweetwater will not share the name with the Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío.
Three commissioners upheld the mayor’s veto on Monday night, revoking a resolution that passed in December to name the plaza on Southwest Seventh Terrace on the west side of 109th Avenue as the Ruben Dario Memorial Plaza.
To the east of 109th Avenue, the city has approved plans to build a Brothers to the Rescue memorial plaza in front of the 15-story student apartment building, to honor the memory of the four pilots whose planes were shot down by the Cuban air force in 1996. The families of the pilots were consulted in the design of the plaza, which the city wants to finish by 2016, for the 20th anniversary of their deaths.
In previous meetings, the City Commission agreed to close off Southwest Seventh Terrace on the west side of 109th Avenue to mirror the space on the east side. Although no plans have been made to build any plaza design on the west side, the entire area on Southwest Seventh Terrace has been referenced as being part of the Brothers to the Rescue plaza.
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The city hasn’t planned to build anything on the west side of Southwest Seventh Terrace until the pedestrian bridge, funded by the TIGER grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, is completed. It will connect Sweetwater to Florida International University across Eighth Street and land on that west side of 109th Avenue.
Commissioner Orlando Lopez originally proposed to name the west side after the Nicaraguan poet in the December. He said the city should have something to honor the Nicaraguan community.
“We have areas in the city that honor Jose Marti, a Cuban poet. So I thought we should honor Rubén Darío, a Nicaraguan poet,” he said.
But Mayor Jose M. Diaz said that splitting the established name of the area would cause a divide between residents of either Nicaraguan or Cuban descent.
“While I applaud the intent to honor the poet laureate of Nicaragua, the great Rubén Darío, the manner in which this is being done is divisive and insulting to any person with a sense of decency,” said Diaz in his veto message. “To split the plaza into two parts is an insults to the memory of the Brothers to the Rescue tragedy. It is a vile attempt to divide our citizens for selfish political gain.”
Diaz claimed this was all a political move since Lopez will be running against him for mayor in May. The other candidate in the running is Nicaraguan activist Deborah Centeno.
The city of Sweetwater, which has one of the largest concentrations of Nicaraguans in the United States since 1980, has never had an elected official of Nicaraguan descent.
The mayor suggested at the meeting that the city pick another area or project to name after the Nicaraguan poet.
“The city has a great vision of projects and other places that we can give the name of Rubén Darío,” Diaz said.
Just outside the city boundaries in unincorporated Miami-Dade, there is a school on West Flagler and a park on 97th Avenue named after Darío.
The veto was upheld, with Commissioners Jose A. Bergouignan, Manuel Duasso and Prisca Barreto voting to uphold it. Lopez, along with commissioners Isolina Maroño, Catalino Rodriguez and Jose M. Guerra voted to overturn the veto.
“You can’t honor somebody by taking away the honor of somebody else,” Bergouignan said. “It’s an insult to their families, who have been coming to all of our meetings.”