Miami's Argentine population keeps growing

The Miami HeraldAugust 9, 2011 

Miyen Spinelli was 13 when he left Argentina for the United States with his family in 2001 as a financial meltdown roiled the country sparking riots, closing banks and bankrupting thousands of businesses. Marcelo Zelicovich left two years later after he lost his aromatherapy business to the same Argentine crisis.

The two Argentines were among tens of thousands of economic refugees who ended up resettling in Miami early last decade, further enriching South Florida’s multinational tapestry.

Now, Zelicovich and Spinelli are among the100,000 Argentine immigrants in South Florida, giving life to the biggest Argentine expatriate community in the United States, according to Miguel Talento, the Argentine consul in Miami.

Spinelli, now 23, is a recent graduate of St. Thomas University in sports administration. He drew international headlines in July when the Argentine consul in Miami personally intervened in his immigration case, urging federal authorities not to deport him. They complied by delaying his removal for at least a year and signaling that they may delay it further.

Zelicovich, 43, has gained fame as Doctor Aromas, a North Miami executive who makes his living perfuming buildings and homes by spreading aromatherapy scents through air conditioning ducts. After his original aromatherapy business went belly up in the Argentine maelstrom, Zelicovich joined the exodus abroad and found refuge in Miami.

Today, so many Argentines call the area home that a Little Buenos Aires neighborhood — ala Little Havana and Little Haiti — emerged in Miami Beach along Collins Avenue roughly between 65th and 75th streets.

The area is full of businesses that cater to Argentines like Buenos Aires Bakery & Café and Manolo. Both coffee shops serve Argentine delicacies like medialunas (sweet croissants) and alfajores, shortbread cookies made with a filling of dulce de leche, a caramel-like milk-based sauce.

“I start my day at Buenos Aires Bakery and end it at Manolo,” said Ruben Duré, a 66-year-old Argentine retired welder who has been living in the United States since 1968.

Once a thriving South American nation that rivaled the United States in drawing immigrants, Argentina 10 years ago began exporting immigrants who had lost fortunes, businesses, life savings and homes.

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