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Mayor Suarez On Miami Becoming A Tech Hub, Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccine, The Chonga Contribution To Art & Culture

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Courtesy of Jillian Hernandez
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Women on the Rise! (WOTR) at the Museum of Contemporary Art is a community arts project that provided a space for creative release for girls committed to the juvenile justice system.

Miami’s mayor has a dream for a high-tech city. Cuba is hoping its COVID-19 vaccine could become a tool to attract more visitors to the island. And an exploration into chonga culture and the "Aesthetics of Excess."

On this Tuesday, Feb. 23, episode of Sundial:

Mayor Suarez On Miami Becoming A Tech Hub

How would you feel if by 2025, Miami had become an international tech hub? Picture it: major tech companies would call the city home, there’d be a system of underground tunnels to alleviate traffic and taxes could be paid with cryptocurrency.

This is the vision of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

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“We're selling the brand and we're selling the idea that we need to be diversified as an economy. We're basically tourism, which are not necessarily high-paying jobs, and construction. We've been a development city. We need to make sure of that in finance as well. I think we need to make sure that we're on the cutting edge of the industry,” Suarez said.

Mayor Suarez On Miami Becoming A Tech Hub
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Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccine

If you’re one of the millions of Floridians still awaiting their coronavirus vaccine, would you travel to get it?

Cuban scientists are in the final stages of testing the vaccine they have developed, called Sovereign 2.

“We should expect to see published results at the end of the phase three trials, which are happening next month. It's going to involve 150,000 people between Cuba and Iran, which is also participating in the trial. But, the scientists involved have said that the first two phases of trials have shown good and safe results,” said New York Times reporter Natalie Kitroeff.

Once approved, the country is planning mass development of doses that will be available to citizens and tourists. Many questions remain about its efficacy, potential cost and accessibility for those who need it most.

“There was always a lot of traffic back and forth between Miami and Havana, between Cuba and Florida in the United States. But, I think the idea of going to Cuba and availing yourself of a vaccine made by this despised communist regime, that would be a troubling prospect for a lot of exiles. So I think you have to balance those two impulses. It'll be interesting to see if that sort of thing does play out,” said WLRN’s Americas editor Tim Padgett.

Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccine
While coronavirus vaccine trials are ongoing and U.S. vaccine has yet to be approved, state health officials are planning ahead for how to eventually immunized a large swath of the population.

The Chonga Contribution To Art And Culture

Extravagant nails, tight pants, hoop earrings, heavy makeup — these all come to mind when we discuss the Miami-based chonga culture.

A new book titled “Aesthetics of Excess” explores how the bodies of women of color are racialized. And, at the same time, are a source of cultural capital when appropriated by pop culture.

“Chonga style has influenced contemporary art. It has influenced music, popular music. I'm trying to say, let's not think of chonga as just like a funny topic to talk about or as a problem that we need to fix. Let's actually appreciate what they contribute to not only Latino culture, but to popular culture and art in a broader sense,” said Jillian Hernandez, the book's author. She is also a professor at the University of Florida.

Hernandez also worked on an art project for young women of color in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, in North Miami. The book is dedicated to all the women that she worked with there.

“We worked with thousands of girls throughout Miami to, one, introduce them to the work of women artists that they weren't taught about in school, and to use those women artists as positive role models for them,” said Hernandez.

Chongas’ Contribution To Art & Culture
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Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.
Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.