The Freedom Tower, which is almost 100 years old, is one of the most important symbols of Miami. At one point it was the tallest building in the city, it also has the oldest elevator and has become our Eiffel Tower for its preeminence in the city center and later, our Ellis Island for its role in hosting Cuban exiles in the 1960s.
But sometimes things we see all the time are the things we know the least about. Imposing and luminous, the Freedom Tower has a lot of secrets that we discuss in this episode of the Hidden Miami podcast, with the help of guest Natalia Crujeiras, executive director of Cultural Affairs at Miami Dade College. This institution manages the Tower as a museum and headquarters of several departments such as the Miami Film Festival.
Watch the video here:
Now a national monument, the Freedom Tower also stands out for its architectural value and its similarity to another iconic building, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. But do you know why the resemblance is so obvious, apart from the fact that it has a bell tower with the same function as the one in Seville Cathedral?
The link between the Freedom Tower and journalism and democracy in South Florida is undeniable because it was the headquarters of the Miami Daily News. But many do not know how the founder of this newspaper, James M. Cox, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt are linked in the history of the United States.
For Cuban exiles, the Freedom Tower has a special meaning because it was there that, upon their arrival from Cuba in the 1960s, they were received to process their documents, receive help, and begin their lives in the United States.
Here we tell lesser-known details: what the Tower’s cafeteria was called when it served as a refuge for Cubans. And we ask a question that seems a little crazy: What does the Freedom Tower have to do with Al Capone, a gravedigger and cans of spam? Which Miami businessmen helped recover the Tower from neglect? And how did its historic mosaic mural escape destruction?
There are many children who remember having the “best” ham and cheese sandwich there, during the days of hunger before coming to this country. There are many who remember hearing from their parents that their stay in the United States was only temporary and that they would soon return to Cuba. For them and other nationalities in Miami, the Freedom Tower has become a meeting point for protests, demonstrations and to exercise their right to express themselves in this country.
Listen to the podcast here:
Tune in on Tuesdays to watch the episodes on YouTube and the el Nuevo Herald website. Find all the episodes of the Miami Oculto podcast on your favorite audio platform:Spotify Podcast, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music.