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  • Issayas Tesfamariam

Miami Beach and Asmara: Sister Cities


In 2017, Eritrean Americans in the USA have conducted several successful events. One of them was, The Asmara World Heritage Exhibition that opened up on September 27, 2017 at the Art Deco Museum in Miami Beach. The event was very successful. The museum is a beach front facility with capacity for 200 people at the popular South Beach section of the city (picture from city’s website).

The event produced a proclamation that established sister ship between the city of Miami Beach and Asmara. The proclamation was presented and read by Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzales. Commissioner Gonzales’ speech was well received with great enthusiasm. As a congressional candidate to the open District 27 seat, she has won the hearts and minds of Eritrean Americans that evening. The display of the exhibits was nothing, but professional.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzales presenting the Proclamation to

Mr. Dawit Haile from the Eritrean Embassy

The Art Deco Museum is located in the heart of the tourist hub. Observing the exhibits of Asmara’s modernist architecture in the museum and the glamor of South Beach, this rear combination makes an Eritrean national feel homesick. It reminded us about Harnet Avenue at Independence Day celebration. The museum was full of art deco building exhibits from Asmara. For Asmarinos it looks like Asmara in Miami. The exhibition will continue until December 31, 2017. Eritreans residing in Miami will frequently visit the show and probably plan New Year’s Eve 2017 party at the museum.

The popular exhibit that attracted the attention of many people is the FIAT Tagliero service station. “The building mimicking an airplane taking off” said Dr. Naizgy Gebremedhin, the MIT trained Eritrean architect in his presentation. However, from aviation professional stands point, that airplane resembles the majestic Boeing 747 known as jumbo jet. The building was completed in 1938, but the jumbo jet was designed in late 60s. Thus, the FIAT Tagliero building predates the B747 (the only commercial airplane with a hump) by about 30 years. No wonder why it’s classified as futuristic. We learned from the presentation that there are about 400 modernist buildings that survived in Asmara and they need to be preserved as world heritage.

Dr. Naizghi Gebremedhin

The museum was filled to capacity by visitors, residents, passersby, children and Eritrean Americans from Tampa, Orlando, Miami and its environs. The Eritrean American women group provided sufficient quantity of authentic Eritrean food, coffee and tea services, homemade honey wine, beer and Eritrean product anise liqueur, which is similar to Sambuca and Ouzo.

We had assigned some members to entertain discussions based on the book, “Asmara Africa’s Secret Modernist City”. On the sideline visitors discussed about the different building designs, history of Asmara and cultural issues.

A gentleman, who heard few Italian words when one of our colleagues was describing the Saint Mary Cathedral, introduced himself as Cuban American by the name of Rodriguez. Rodriguez indicated that “there is an identical cathedral in Havana.” The discussion continued for about ten minutes and Rodriguez said “my I ask few personal questions”? The Eritrean replied, “a su servicio” (at your service). Are you originally from Asmara or other parts of Eritrea? Response, yes I am. Born, raised and educated in Asmara up to the age of 20 years. Rodriguez added, how many years have you leaved in Miami or USA? Response, I lived in Chicago for seven years and 38 in Miami, which adds up to 45 years. Rodriguez quickly interrupted, which one do you like most, Miami or Asmara and why? Response, Chicago and Miami are world class cities, but Asmara is my city of choice.

As you may recall, in the 60s, there was worldwide economic boom (the boom generation). So also was in Asmara. Life was simple, but pleasant and enjoyable. I spent my teen age life in the center of the city near the Administrative Commissariat Building (Commissariato Hamasen), which was the first central administrative building in Asmara (pointing to the building in the display). I have a strong attachment with most of these buildings, because I have conducted business in some of them, earned fame and glory in some of the public places, strolled on the streets with my teen age friends. I enjoyed my young age life in Asmara. As a result, I cannot replace Asmara by Miami or any other city in the world. As I started my life in Asmara, I prefer to end it there. I look forward to my retirement years in Asmara.

Rodriguez expressed his appreciation for sharing the Asmara passion with him and noted that Eritreans are very cohesive group and are cause oriented. On the sideline, there were similar discussions, but Dr. Naizgy (co-author of the book) attracted the largest crowd followed by the German promoter of the event.

According to the Museum’s caretakers, management staffs, and opening night participants, the event was successful, well planned and executed. It was made possible in partnership with the Miami Design Preservation League, Eritrean Americans from Tampa, Orlando, Miami and environs.

This report was initially posted live by Huruy Tecle from Miami Beach.

Huruy Tecle

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