Remember that October Los Van Van show in Miami? Ay, what a mess! It was so Miami. Cubans protesting outside, Cubans wagging their butts inside, cops clad in riot gear, foul language in two tongues, reporters out the wazoo. It was enough to make us thank our lucky stars we don't live in Miami-Dade (as if our proximity to Sawgrass Mills weren't enough!)
The Van Van debacle, along with Miami-Dade's anti-Cuba ordinance, sent the Latin Grammys scurrying from Miami to, in all likelihood, Los Angeles (where, we're told, there is a deep and abiding respect for the First Amendment.) South Florida had about as much chance of hosting the show as Fidel does of singing the national anthem at a Calle Ocho Festival.
Fortunately the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau charged in with a last-ditch attempt to keep the show in our corner of the country. Its message was simple and persuasive: Fort Lauderdale -- it ain't Miami. The bureau caught someone's attention, because now the Grammy honchos are giving Broward a hard look. If they like what they see, Broward County stands to cash in to the tune of $35 million in revenues, not to mention international exposure and an invaluable boost in "street cred."
Such largess doesn't fall from the sky, compadres. It must be earned. Recently New Times uncovered key documents from the county's "Get Those Damn Grammys" campaign, including the following letter from convention and visitors bureau president Nicki Grossman to Michael Greene, president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Read it and weep, Alex Penelas.
November 10, 1999
President and CEO
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
3402 Pico Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90405
I am saddened to hear about your recent troubles with Miami-Dade County regarding suitable venues for the Latin Grammys 2000. It seems a battery of rock-and-bottle-wielding malcontents have once again thwarted efforts for an international artistic dialogue in Miami. And let's not get into that Miami-Dade ordinance prohibiting all business that even remotely smacks of Cuba or the oft-misunderstood Señor Castro. Those pesky expatriates strong-arm mayors and musicians alike with commerce-repellent gestures like death threats, bombs, and the most offensive of assaults, spit!
Yes, it's messy doing business in Miami-Dade County. We try to avoid it when possible. Which brings me to the reason for this letter: Have you given any thought to Fort Lauderdale and Broward County? Let me seize this opportunity to tell you about the place we call home, where streets and beaches are swept clean and minorities are just that!
With 300 sunny days per year on average, there's very little to protest here. And when crime and violence do rear their nasty little heads, you can rest assured their presence is almost never politically fueled. When it comes to politics, gentility is our modus operandi, Mr. Greene. We keep our civic discourse quiet, behind the scenes, and in its place: the beautifully manicured greens of our 52 golf courses, several of which are readily available for large party bookings.
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Yet there's no shortage of ethnic and artistic expression here, good sir. Why just the other day my receptionist, Luisa Garcia Gonzalez del Rincon, stood up and sang a stirring rendition of "Guantanamera" in honor of Broward County's third annual Recognize-a-Latin Day. Ms. del Rincon was roundly applauded by her superiors, many of whom attend one or more of the plentiful cultural celebrations that we allow (if sponsored by the Sun-Sentinel), ethnic-rich events like the Italian Festival, and the legendary Wing Ding, to mention a couple. You might say we're living la vida loca here in Broward, Mr. Greene.
This isn't about money and international exposure, though I expect your show would bring in plenty of both. This is about friendship between cultures, Mr. Greene. Believe me when I say that you and your Latins are welcome here. In closing, let me be the first to extend a hearty bienvenidos from el County de Broward!