We knew Miami was a Hispanic city (the 60-plus percent doctrine), but the Span part got a big boost Sunday with the opening of the new Centro Cultural Español in the heart of downtown, featuring Spain’s maximum female, Queen Sofia, and their maximum pop star who’s also a part-time Miami resident, Alejandro Sanz.
That Spain, whose housing and financial crisis makes our own look small-change, would sink significant money into moving their arts center from its sweet but staid previous home in Coral Gables to a showplace location on 15th and Biscayne, into a building owned by major Spanish developer Espacio (currently the area’s only other player besides the Arsht in there with gargantuan Genting’s gambling onslaught.) And bring royalty to inaugurate it.
“This is a really nice moment for Miami,” Sanz said, who's learned composure under many lenses in long years of award show red carpets. “Spain represents a very important part of the culture of this country. And this is a queen who really promotes the transcendence of Spanish culture.”
She may be old world royalty, but in Miami Queen Sofia (looking old-school elegante in brown bob and pale blue satin suit) was engulfed by new world promo paparazzi chaos. When I got my invite to the opening, I actually entertained fantasies of meeting her highness in a receiving line. (I got a manicure. Worried about what shoes to wear. Actually wondered “how do I address a queen?”) Hah. Hah. Hah.
There were hundreds of people there, including Mayor Regalado, Emilio Estefan, artists and musicians, but also lots of Cuban-Americans eager for a glimpse of the leader of the country their home island revolted against over 100 years ago.
“This is a day of pride,” said Emilio Estefan. “We are American 100%, but we don’t forget where we come from.” Sweating security guards kept pushing the crowd back and back – they almost sidelined Sanz and Estefan – to make a large open passage for Queen Sofia, as if all those people weren't really packing the gallery.
High level Spanish functionaries lined up against the wall, heads bowed, I kid you not. Thought I saw one woman bobbing a curtsey. One man yelled “Viva la reina!”. Made me want to mutter “Viva la revolucion”. Queen Sofia entered to a storm of camera flashes, admired some of the E.Co ecological photo exhibit (beautiful and darkly thought provoking, btw, and worth a visit), then beelined over to Sanz.
Nothing can keep cameras from such a confluence of celebrity. The photographers swirled in like a whirlpool, surrounding them with a circling forest of flashing cameras. (For some reason I thought of a story Sanz once told me, about being raised by a single mother in a gritty Madrid neighborhood. When Mama got mad she would send her shoes flying at young Ale’s head.).
Anyways, you can physically check out the spectacular E.Co show at 1490 Biscayne, or ccemiami.org for programs - music, flamenco, children's art-making, mas.
Alejandro Sanz at opening of Spanish Cultural Center