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The Year of Dangerous Days: Riots, Refugees, and Cocaine in Miami 1980

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As I've mentioned before, I grew up in Miami.  I left for college in 1977, but came home for holidays and summers until I moved to Dallas in 1985.  I remember all of these "dangerous days."


The book opens in late 1979, with a shootout by cocaine cowboys that took place about a mile from my home, leaving 2 cars, one with a body in trunk, stranded in the intersection.  I remember this event vividly because my best friend, her brother, and I used to walk to that intersection to watch cowboy movies on Saturday mornings when we were little.  I just didn't realize it would be the opening scene in this book or, at the time, that it was the opening scene for a very difficult time in Miami's history.


The next year (1980), Castro released many political prisoners plus criminals and inmates of Cuban mental asylums to make the short crossing to the Florida Keys, flooding Miami with Cuban refugees.  The refugees all left from the harbor at Mariel and therefore are referred to as Marielitos.  Castro came to power the year I was born, so Cuban refugees had always been in Miami, but this increased their numbers substantially.  We sold my mother's car to a Marielito and I, the only one who spoke Spanish, had to handle the negotiations.


And finally, 40 years ago, also in 1980, a black man was beaten to death by the police for driving a motorcycle aggressively and then...giving up, neither of which is an executable offense.  His attackers were found innocent in a trial on the other side of the state (because the defense argued that it couldn't get a fair trial in Miami) in 1981 and one of the black neighborhoods in Miami, Liberty City,  went up in flames.  I accidentally drove into that neighborhood not long after the riots and the extent and severity of the destruction were sobering.  


Griffin ties all of these stories together perfectly so that it is possible to see how these 3 events changed Miami forever and in many, but not all, ways for the better.  Still none of that improvement seemed likely at the time.  In fact, Miami had such a bad reputation at that time that I went to the airport and sat next to a couple who had been there on a long layover.  It has been so long that I asked if they got  out and saw any of the sights and they said no, they had been too scared.  I was saddened by that because there is so much beautiful to see in Miami.  


Even without the local knowledge, this is an excellent book.  Highly recommend.

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