You’ve popped into the Jorge Pardo show at MoCA, you’ve zipped through the Herzog & De Meuron exhibit at MAM, not to mention the 40-plus galleries in Wynwood. But if you think you’ve seen everything there is to see of Miami’s institutional culture, you are sorely mistaken. A short drive out of the Bermuda Art Triangle, to Little Havana, will take you to three exhibits that are not only fascinating, but have the added benefit of highlighting some of the most spectacular bottom-of-the-barrel episodes in the history of U.S.-Latin America relations. Do not leave Miami without a visit to the Elían González House, the Bay of Pigs Museum, and Woodlawn Park Cemetery & Mausoleum, where you can deposit flowers at the graves of both Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and Cuban tyrant Gerardo Machado. You want travels in hyper-reality? This is it.
Stop #1: The Elián González House.
Yes. You can visit it.
Conveniently situated around the corner from the always-bustling Islas Canarias Cuban restaurant (don’t miss the mariquitas with mojo de ajo), the museum is situated in the actual house where the six-year-old Elián lived during his four-month stay in the United States in 2000. The four-room cottage is a monument to Elián, containing a copious number of photocollages of the young boy, as well as the complete collection of his wardrobe and toys. The museum, which charges no admission but accepts donations, is run by Elián’s great uncle Delfín, who obligingly shares first-hand stories about the whole sordid drama.
Elián’s old bedroom.
An over-sized reproduction of the famed news wire photograph showing the moment when federal agents stormed the house to remove Elián.
And here’s the closet.
Elián González House. 2319 NW 2nd St., between NW 23rd and NW 24th Aves.
Stop #2: The Bay of Pigs Museum
Veterans from the Bay of Pigs Invasion are on hand to talk not only about the contents of this jam-packed, two-room exhibit (which includes a silver-plated gun that once belonged to Fidel’s brother Raúl), but also about being mercenaries in the service of the U.S. government. (Unfortunately, our photograph of Raúl’s weapon was a total blur.)
CIA documents in a display case at the Bay of Pigs Museum.
The Battalion that led the invasion was funded by the U.S. Even so, money for supplies was short. The soldiers who parachuted into the Bay wore hand-painted football helmets for head protection.
Jorge Fajardo, Gloria Estefan’s dad, was a member of the Battalion.
The Bay of Pigs Museum. 1821 SW 9th St., between SW 18th and 19th Aves.
Stop #3: Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum
Where do old Latin American rulers go to die (or get buried)? Miami, of course. And Woodlawn Park is a veritable bonanza of their tombs. Here you’ll find the final resting place of Carlos Prío, the last elected president of Cuba, Gerardo Machado, the Cuban dictator renowned for his gangland-style assassination tactics, and the iron-fisted Anastasio Somoza Debayle of Nicaragua.
Somoza’s tomb: taking us back to the days when the Contras made headlines.
The interior of Somoza’s tomb. His crypt, to the left, is inscribed with the words, “He loved his people.”
Desiderio Arnaz, entertainer Desi Arnaz‘s father, rests over General Gerardo Machado.
Carlos Prio, Cuban president and renowned kleptocrat. After being deposed by Fulgencio Batista, he helped fund Fidel Castro’s forces.
Woodlawn Park Cemetery and Mausoleum. 3262 SW 8th St., between SW 32nd and 33rd Aves.
Posted by C-Monster. With reporting by San Suzie, our far-flung correspondent.