Reflections Inspired by a Chance Photo

La Palma in Hialeah
La Palma Latin Cafe in Hialeah, Fl

I took this photo with my cell phone while I was in South Florida for my cousin’s wedding.  It was just on a whim because I wanted to show some of my family what had changed when I wasn’t looking.  Below is what I wrote on the description on flickr along with a little more exposition:

This is in the same building where a restaurant called Latin America used to be. We didn’t eat there very often in my youth, but it did make an impression on me.

Latin America was mostly a counter-top style restaurant with some tables along the perimeter. In the middle you could see the meat being carved and the Cuban sandwiches being pressed.  You could hear the waters and watresses yelling to the cooks when they would place on order for the cooks to grab in that mechanism used in diners all across the US.  Everything but the kitchen where most items were prepared and cooked was open for you to see.  If you ordered a sandwich, you could see it being made once the ingredients came out of the kitchen.  If you ordered guarapo (sugar cane juice) you could see the cane being pressed to make the drink.  It was loud and it was wonderful.

It’s always disappointing to go back to your old neighborhood and find that things have changed. The funny thing is that most things (at least the ones that stick out in my mind from my childhood) have remained the same.  All the landmarks I used to figure out how to get there (I never relied on street names for the parts of Miami I always drove on)  were still around.  I knew I wanted to go to Sedanos (a Florida grocery chain) after visiting Latin America and it was still there. The only difference is that they no longer have a pharmacy.

I think this is part of the reason for songs, poems, and stories that declare you can’t go back home.  This is partly because you change.  Wherever you’ve been has changed your perspectives.  Things that once seemed ordinary, you learn are particular to your region, state, or city.  But it’s also partly because places change.  Towns boom and go bust.  Trends come and go.  For most established cities, things probably won’t change dramatically unless a natural disaster wipes out the previous buildings.  (Or terrorism in the case of the Twin Towers)  Instead it will change little by little until the time arrives when you bring your grandchild to the place where you grew up and have to spend all your time saying, “instead of this building, another one was here when I grew up.”

I’m not that old, but I am getting to a point where I realize all the things that seemed constant in my childhood were really changing.  It’s just that kids are so hyped up that the world appears to be still to them.  (Think of The Matrix or the Time Teasers episode of Duck Tales)  Now I realize it’s all in flux – that’s the only constant.  (Yeah, I know you told me that before, Dad, but I couldn’t see it…I was moving too fast)


3 responses to “Reflections Inspired by a Chance Photo”

  1. That’s a serious bummer. I don’t want to live in a world without Latin America. Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?!