When Nelson Mandela announced he would visit Miami only four months after spending 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa, it sparked a series of exchanges in Miami-Dade County between the black and Cuban-American communities that made national headlines and caused economic hardship, but eventually led to significant economic change.
“We really were looking for something to ignite and unify us,” attorney H.T. Smith, who spearheaded a three-year boycott of Miami by black businesses and organizations, said Thursday.
It began in May 1990 when Mandela, who had spent almost three decades in prison, announced he would visit Miami a month later. Miami politicians planned a proclamation.
But a week before his planned June 28 visit, Mandela appeared on ABC TV and acknowledged his support for Moammar Gadahfi, Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro — setting off a string of events that people still recall more than two decades later.
The day after Mandela’s comments, Miami Commissioner Victor DeYurre demanded the city rescind its proclamation. Other commissioners agreed.