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Nobody could imagine that thirty years ago Miami could held a book fair. The idea was simply implausible. Miami was know mainly for its natural beauty. The Art side of the town was only beginning. Miami was reeling and recovering in the early 1980s. The Mariel boatlift from Cuba had churned up its streets, and the 1980 riots were a recent memory. The Art Deco revival was years away, and the television series “Miami Vice,” a paean to South Beach style, was yet to make its mark. “Paradise Lost?” Time magazine had asked on its cover in 1981.

Book Fair

The Miami Book Fair International in 1987. Organizers sought from the start to attract big names; this year over 500 writers are expected to attend. Credit Miami Book Fair International/Miami Dade College

So in 1984, when Eduardo J. Padrón, the president of Miami Dade College, asked Mitchell Kaplan, owner of the fledgling Books & Books shop in Coral Gables, to help him start a book fair in Miami’s downtown area, the preferred ZIP code for prostitutes and vagrants, quixotic was a polite term for their vision.

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