I am writing in response to Fabiola Santiago’s Jan. 12 column opposing the Cuban Exile History Museum on Parcel B.
The project to erect a world-class museum on Parcel B on Biscayne Bay, for which lease negotiations were approved on July 17, 2014 by an 8-3 vote spanning our vibrant community’s various racial and ethnic lines, has always been specifically prohibited from receiving funds from county taxpayers.
Moreover, if the museum is unable to comply with the rigorous fundraising milestones totaling $77 million — plus another $12 million for the surrounding Freedom Park — required by its memorandum of understanding with the county over the next four years, then it simply does not qualify for the long-term lease agreement, minimizing taxpayer liability and immediately returning the land to the public.
County residents may wonder where museum opponents’ selective outrage over the promised green space on this site has been for the past 22 years. During this time Parcel B’s public space was a padlocked, weed-choked, crime-infested eyesore, frequented mostly by vagrants, when it was not being used as a valet parking lot by the Miami Heat. In contrast, the museum will be suspended on columns over only about an acre of the new four-acre Freedom Park, essentially creating beneath it an urban park with full supporting amenities and free to the public.
Additionally, the museum has worked closely with African-American elected leaders and private historical institutions to fully cooperate with and support a commensurate African-American History Museum located either on this same or an equally prominent site.
Furthermore, the museum’s tag line, “From tyranny to freedom” clearly articulates that, far from only being “an ode to the success of one group’s American Dream,” it shall strive to showcase the universal premise that human beings thrive only when their governments no longer oppress them, and that Miami-Dade County is but one familiar example of this; the museum shall be operated and curated consistent with the highest standards that exist worldwide; and in its recent in-depth report, ConsultEcon, a nationally recognized museum consulting firm, conservatively predicts that the museum will draw several hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, which will significantly boost the local economy.
Perhaps Santiago’s most inexcusable question is why “the residents of Miami-Dade County need yet another Cuban museum?” Can one even imagine the public outcry upon being asked if why there was a duplication of efforts on behalf of regional Holocaust museums?
A comprehensive top-notch Cuban-American history museum is long overdue for our county, particularly one like CEHM, which is committed to fully cooperating with all of this area’s other “significant repositories of historical Cuban treasures that already exist.” Finally, this Cuban museum deserves not to be relegated to simply preaching to the choir in Little Havana or Hialeah, but rather should take its place on Biscayne Bay, where it can elegantly articulate its universal message of freedom and democracy to the millions of tourists who visit our community from all over the world.
Nicolás J. Gutiérrez Jr. is the secretary and a member of the founding board of directors of the Cuban Exile History Museum, Inc.