Angela Martínez remembers the bumper stickers: ``Will the Last American to Leave Hialeah Please Bring the Flag?''
They began appearing on car fenders, light poles and bathroom stalls. And they summed up what some saw as an apocalyptic end to the quality of life, brought on by the mass influx of Cubans and Haitians in 1980 and the election of Cuban-Americans like Angela's husband, Raúl, to high posts in ethnically divisive races.
``I used to be so upset,'' says Martínez. ``When Florida was divided into east and west under the Spanish in 1816, my great-great-grandfather, José Callava, was the governor of West Florida. He was the one who turned over Florida to General Jackson. He was a Spaniard, and from here, he went to Cuba. So I used to tell them, `I was here before you.' ''
Draw the curtain of history to 1980 and view a region undergoing painful, tumultuous change in what many remember as the most extraordinary year in South Florida history. Battles were fought -- some verbal, some violent -- that defined, challenged, and eventually ushered in the cosmopolitan Miami of the 21st century, a region now hailed and promoted as the ``Gateway to the Americas,'' but 30 years ago engulfed in ethnic and racial tension.
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