October 1, 1987
ABOUT THE BOOK
Miami is not just a portrait of a city, but a masterly study of immigration and exile, passion, hypocrisy, and political violence.
It is where Fidel Castro raised money to overthrow Batista and where two generations of Castro’s enemies have raised armies to overthrow him, so far without success. It is where the bitter opera of Cuban exile intersects with the cynicism of U.S. foreign policy. It is a city whose skyrocketing murder rate is fueled by the cocaine trade, racial discontent, and an undeclared war on the island ninety miles to the south.
As Didion follows Miami’s drift into a Third World capital, she also locates its position in the secret history of the Cold War, from the Bay of Pigs to the Reagan doctrine and from the Kennedy assassination to the Watergate break-in.
Didion’s Miami is a kaleidoscope of impressions, and a litany of violence, intrigue, vengeance, political manipulation, and broken dreams.
Read an Excerpt
Havana vanities come to dust in Miami. On the August night in 1933 when General Gerardo Machado, then president of Cuba, flew out of Havana into exile, he took with him five revolvers, seven bags of gold, and five friends, still in their pajamas. Geraardo Machado is buried now in a marble crypt at Woodlawn Park Cemetery in Miami, Section Fourteen, the mausoleum. On the March night in 1952 when Carlos Prío Socarrás, who had helped depose Gerardo Machado in 1933 and had fifteen years later become president himself, flew out of Havana into exile, he took with him his foreign minister, his minister of the interior, his wife and his two small daughters. A photograph of the occasion shows Señora de Prío, quite beautiful, boarding the plane in what appears to be a raw silk suit, and a hat with black fishnet veiling. She wears gloves, and earrings. Her makeup is fresh. The husband and father, recently the president, wears dark glasses, and carries the younger child, María Elena, in his arms.
Carlos Prío is now buried himself at Woodlawn Park Cemetery in Miami, Section Three, not far from Gerardo Machado, in a grave marked by a six-foot marble stone on which the flag of Cuba waves in red, white and blue ceramic tile. CARLOS PRÍO SOCARRAS 1903–1977, the stone reads, and directly below that, as if Carlos Prío Socarrá’s main hedge against oblivion had been that period at the University of Havana when we was running actions against Gerardo Machado: MIEMBRO DEL DIRECTORIO ESTUDIANTIL UNIVERSITARIO 1930. Only then does the legend PRESIDENTE DE LA REPÚPLICA DE CUBA 1948–1952 appear, an anti-climax. Presidencies are short and the glamours of action long, there among the fallen frangipani and crepe myrtle blossoms at Woodlawn Park Cemetery in Miami. “They say that I was a terrible president of Cuba,” Carlos Prío once said to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., during a visit to the Kennedy White House some ten years into the quarter-century Miami epilogue to his four-year Havana presidency. “That may be true. But I was the best president Cuba ever had.”