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True Miami. Jeffrey Hoskins felt it rising the moment he heard the motorcycle's tangled smash into an oncoming Buick, a volcano's fire rising fast. He never heard the shot, never saw the cop's bullet crack the rider's skull, didn't know the second guy on the bike was fatally injured slicing through the Buick's windshield. It didn't matter; Hoskins heard sirens and a crash, and he knew what came next. He'd been through this before, twice during the city's boiling '80s: black men dead, a white police officer responsible, the community ready to blow. Now here it was, Martin Luther King Day of 1989, Hoskins running outside and the crowd massing and cops speaking in scratchy loudspeaker voices: Get back.... Repel.... Get back.
True Miami can't be contained. True Miami kicks through the gloss of brochures selling palm and surf. The January 1989 explosion, Miami's last race riot in an era of relentless racial tension, fell like a typhoon on Day One of Super Bowl Week—that glorious tourism bonanza during which, each year, one city shamelessly primps and pays to have its name drilled into the nation's conversation. Super Bowl weeks are boring. They're meant to be. The NFL is a careful beast, and over the years it has staged bland extravaganzas in such places as New Orleans, San Diego, Minneapolis and Atlanta. Miami too; Miami, the best, perhaps, except that in 1979, its fifth time as host, the cabbies and hotels engaged in a price-gouging fest so voracious that the NFL wasn't sure it would ever come back. Only vows of virtue (and a new stadium built by Joe Robbie, who then owned the Dolphins) tilted Miami back into favor. The '89 Super Bowl was meant to redeem Miami and—after a decade marked by the Mariel Boatlift, bloody drug wars and conflict among Anglos, Latinos and blacks—help kick off a newer, better age.
All the town needed was some peace. And anybody who knows Miami knows you never guarantee that.
Hoskins didn't get close. Cops setting a perimeter around the bodies, ambulance wailing, people gathering...oh, yes, he knew g this drill. He'd grown up in the neighborhood, in ever-crumbling Overtown, played some quarterback at Miami Senior High before dropping out, could pick out the faces of his life racing by. Hoskins dropped down on a bench, memories crawling across 3 his skin like sweat. A friend had died in the 1982 riot while trying to protect a white man; the crowd snapped his neck. Hoskins's mother was beaten then too. Now two more men, both friends of his, were dead. The air thickened again; cracking voices began to I scream. Hoskins felt it all course through him like a wind—kids by various women, wasted football dreams, the empty drift and 5 rage of 25 years in Overtown. He wanted to smash things. "I'll never forget it," he says now. "The tension. I grasped my head 9 and felt all the tension. Thirty seconds later, the first bottle flew. Then they set a car on fire...."
It was 6:30 p.m. Five blocks away Miami Herald sports editor Edwin Pope had just filed his column on the beginning of Super Bowl Week when the news began to filter in. "I'd written, 'For God's sake, please everybody, be nice,' " Pope says. "It didn't even get into the paper. I had to rewrite. That's how fast things happen here. I was trying to warn against something, and it happened—that fast.
"Miami is like a scene from Dante's Inferno: constant ferment. Every day is dynamite."
William Jennings Bryan once said, "Miami is the only city in the world where you can tell a lie at breakfast that will come true by evening." But that was long ago. Miami is now a place where, under the same magnificent sky, this morning's truth can become a lie by sundown, yesterday's hero-mayor becomes today's jailbird, last year's slum becomes this year's St. Tropez. One crisis passes only to make room for the next.
This year marks the return of the Super Bowl to Miami for the first time since those three days of unrest stained the "89 affair, and in the interim Greater Miami has weathered not only a flood of Cuban and Haitian rafters, but also highly publicized attacks on tourists, the trial of former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, major vote fraud in suburban Hialeah, persistent corruption by public officials—accused of smoking crack with a prostitute, one Dade County commissioner hightailed it to Fiji—Hurricane Andrew and the sight of Madonna posing nude on the side of a road.
Yet True Miami also has an astounding resiliency, an elastic drive that allows it to take its hits and not just endure—but thrive. A decade ago the southernmost 15 blocks of Miami Beach were a collection of crumbling hotels, creaky retirees and unsavory refugees from Fidel Castro's massive Mariel Boatlift of 1980. Now South Beach snootily boasts Sylvester Stallone, a string of hip Art Deco hot spots and thousands of visitors willing to pay outrageous prices just to sit near a starved supermodel.
In August 1992, Andrew ripped through southern Dade County and became one of the most costly natural disasters in U.S. history. Experts said it would take a decade for Homestead, a farm-based community and the hardest hit of Dade County's municipalities, to recover, so the Cleveland Indians—in a noxious gesture of faintheartedness—abandoned plans to relocate their spring training camp in Homestead. Filling the breach, the Southridge High football team in South Dade marched, this past fall, to within one game of the national schoolboy championship. In July a $40 million Motorsports Complex will open in Homestead. Meanwhile most of the vegetables on the nation's plate this winter were plucked from South Dade's once ravaged fields.