After years of going it alone, the city's Cuban-American community is making a display of reaching out to other ethnic minorities -- without much success.
With the national spotlight squarely on Little Havana and efforts to keep Elian Gonzalez from being returned to Cuba, the Cuban-American community's isolation is starkly clear: The crowd is almost entirely white or Cuban.
This is happening in a county with a rich mix of minority groups. While Cubans are the largest ethnic group, with about 800,000 of the more than 2.1 million people, there are 500,000 whites, 400,000 other Hispanics, and more than 400,000 blacks, including 150,000 Haitians.
But many of those groups resent the Cuban-American power structure here and aren't rushing to offer support on the Elian issue. The reluctance is rooted both in the history of Miami's race relations and what some call preferential treatment for Cuban Americans.
Haitians and Mexicans point to recent cases of immigrants from both countries being routinely deported while Cubans are guaranteed residency.
''It's definitely an issue of double standards,'' said Leonie Hermantin, executive director of Miami's Haitian American Foundation.
Leaders in the Cuban community claim there is wide support for efforts to keep 6-year-old Elian in the United States and said they are simply welcoming participants from other Latin factions.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, the leader of the exile community's Democracy Movement, said he has extended an invitation to other ethnic and political groups ''to fight the omnivorous power of the INS, a power that comes not from Congress, but from xenophobia.''
But many leaders in those communities say the invitation is as clumsy as it is insincere.
A sign at the home this week compared the effort to civil rights legends -- ''Are Harriet Tubman or Rosa Parks better than Lazaro Gonzalez? No!!'' -- did little to win supporters in the black communities.
''That reflects a lack of appreciation of the history of black people in this country,'' said Marvin Dunn, chairman of the psychology department at Florida International University.
When a rare black face was spotted in the crowd last week, an announcer at Miami's Spanish-language, pro-exile AM radio station Radio Unica welcomed the visitor as a ''gentleman from Africa'' and proof of worldwide support. But the man was Cuban.
As the heat and another vigil began today at the Little Havana home where the 6-year-old boy is living, a dozen protesters practiced forming a human chain and did pushups and situps.
Monday passed without any ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
The Miami relatives are asking for the court to order an asylum hearing for the boy, while the government wants the court to lift a temporary order that bars Elian's removal from the United States and to order Lazaro Gonzalez to release the boy. Such a ruling could allow the government to take immediate action.
Late Monday, Miami Mayor Joe Carollo said he planned to fly to Washington today and meet with government officials about the custody dispute. He refused to elaborate.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, the leader of the exile community's Democracy Movement, said the family is still interested in meeting with Elian's father at a neutral site, without attorneys and government officials -- and without Elian.
''I believe the family would be willing to do that,'' he said early today, not ruling out an out-of-state site.
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