The splendor of the sun spreads over the soft sand on the beaches, and the paved streets of the city exude a thin cloud of white smoke as they are sprinkled by a frail rain shower. The snow birds, on their beach chairs and towels, twist and turn, trying to attain the best possible tan to show off upon their return to the northern territories. As the night falls, life goes on in an ordinary manner until the tenuous lights signaling a new day return. Like a beach town, Miami’s life evolved slowly and casually. Others had come before with the intention to stay, but not many followed; thus perpetuating the stillness of this paradise. However, towards the end of the 50s, waves of Cubans begin to arrive and make of Miami what they thought at the time would be their temporary or second home. In Miami, they eventually establish themselves, creating a microcosm of that which they had left behind. Miami begins to grow.
Perhaps inspired by the style of Walt Whitman, employing a free verse technique, in the book titled, Miami, Poems of the City, Maricel Mayor Marsán offers a glimpse of the gradual making of this city from Flagler to Tuttle and from Merrick to Lummus up to the present time. Those were the people who started laying the foundations to build and connect the unsophisticated city to other distant places. Regarding Julia Tuttle, Mayor Marsán (2015) writes,
She soon decides to settle in South Florida her residence,
close to a river and its mouth,
and from nothing to gamble for a future city
beyond her own imagery in life.(60)
In Miami, Poems of the City, it is as though the history of Miami is being retold through poetry about the visionaries who gradually brought to life what they had conceptualized. In a poem titled The Dreamer of Coral Gables about George E. Merrick, Mayor Marsán (2015) writes,
And with a smile on his lips,
boastful and feverish,
he may have thought in his final years
about the luck he had.
Instead of retaining his fortune,
Fate only retained his wife for him. (64)
In her usual style, Mayor Marsán uses language that is precise, clever, and eloquent – an approach that makes her work accessible to a wider audience. The poems recollect the evolution of Miami with the successive arrival of many who brought with them a cacophony of different accents and populated a place that at one point in time lacked the luster of the great cultural centers. She also acknowledges the agony of families whose relatives have drowned trying to reach the shores of Miami, a city that for many has now come to symbolize freedom. Such is the poem titled Three, There Were Three in which she writes,
They did not have any documents or a dubious history;
…We only know that they were fleeing.
Sad registry of images, voices
and men whose names we do not know,
distressing memorial in the spring. (85)
Mayor Marsán, in another section of the book, draws attention to the baby boomers, the hipsters, and millennials, who share a space in Miami. Most of the poems in the book are dedicated to someone who has left a mark in this city whether historically or culturally. A book about Miami’s inspiring people, cultural traditions, and inviting sights cannot omit Versailles restaurant in Little Havana, where people from all over the world often wait their turn for a coveted spot. As well, she highlights the natural beauty of the city’s landscape and brings into the mix Miami Beach and Coconut Grove. About the Grove, the author asserts,
Most of the faces that take a walk
or sunbathe themselves
in the outdoor cafes
answer to a language
that only a few speak in the city.
I like to listen to their voices
and reaffirm that I still live in Miami. (96)
Written in both English and Spanish, the book serves as a reminder of the two most spoken languages in Miami. During the last decades, Maricel Mayor Marsán has been for this city one of the most important contributors in Spanish language literature through her work and her dedication to promote those with a promising talent in the area of literature.
The sun continues to warm up the sand along the beaches and the soft vapor rises from the scorching pavements of the city streets after a soft drizzle. However, Miami is no longer a city that only offers sun and fun to the snow birds who descend from the north during winter months. Miami today is a sprawling city that has developed with the help of those who have contributed to its development. Although there is still much to accomplish, Miami has gradually matured through an economic, cultural, and literary evolutionary process that is palpable in its iconic architecture, multi-ethnic people, and charisma – all of which continue to attract others.
Mayor Marsán, M. (2015). Miami, Poems of the City. Miami, FL: Ediciones Baquiana.