Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Miami History Part 1

By Michael Caruso:

Thank you David for inviting me to contribute to your blog. For the last 15 years, your blog has been an integral part of our local federal court culture, and I'm flattered that you thought of me. 

For my first post, I wanted to offer an alternative to the current Netflix offering about Miami. In 1994, journalist Susan Orlean wrote an article based on her investigation of the 1994 arrest of horticulturist John Laroche and in south Florida for poaching rare orchids in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.

Two years later, Orlean wrote another south Florida story. Orlean's story—The Homesick Restaurant—describes Juan Saizarbitoria and his restaurant in Miami and Havana.  Here's an excerpt:

"Saizarbitoria had grown up in the Basque region of Spain, and he had made his way to Cuba in the late thirties by sneaking onto a boat and stowing away inside a barrel of sardines. When he first arrived in Havana, he pretended to be a world-famous jai-alai player, and then he became a cook at the jai-alai club. In 1940, he opened Centro Vasco, and he made it into one of the most popular restaurants in Havana. Having lost the restaurant to Castro, in 1962, Juan Saizarbitoria moved to Miami and set up Centro Vasco in exile." 

I had not known of Saizarbitoria or his restaurant before coming across the article. Orlean reports from Centro Vasca in Miami and also visits the Havana restaurant taken away from Saizarbitoria. I fear that not much of this type of Miami history will be preserved, and I thought I'd share.


Anonymous said...

Our local NPR station, WLRN, did a great follow-up piece on the Laroche story last year. It's worth a listen: https://www.wlrn.org/2021-01-20/susan-orlean-revisits-the-orchid-thief-20-years-later

earl rogers said...

I saw the article about Centro Vasco in the New Yorker food and drink edition last week. As I recall, it was a reprint of a 15 year old article