Questions about Miami, the Keys and Florida

Questions about Miami, the Keys and Florida

What are you wondering about, South Florida? We want to know what’s on your mind.

It’s why the Miami Herald has launched Curious305, a community-powered reporting series that solicits questions from readers about Miami-Dade, Broward, the Florida Keys and the rest of the Sunshine State. The crowdsourcing project is just one way we’re working to involve you, our readers, in our journalism.

Here’s how Curious305 works: You send us a question using an online form and our journalists research and report the answer.

And you’ve sent in a lot of questions.

We’ve looked into only-in-South Florida things like the rooster sculptures scattered along Calle Ocho. Your obsession with the 305 area code. And observations that have puzzled you — like what’s happened to the grand globe that used to be inside the old Miami science museum and why there’s a man sitting inside a glass box at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

You’ve asked us about COVID-19 vaccines and tests and other things that keep you up at night, including how to get rid of pesky iguanas in your neighborhood.

We’re still standing by to answer your curiosity. What will your next question be? We may have the answer for you.

Whether you’ve lived in South Florida your whole life or recently moved here, there’s a lot to learn.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 questions and answers so far.

Why are there large rooster sculptures in Little Havana?

Creator of the “Rooster Walk” art project Pedro Damián poses with one of the project’s rooster sculptures in December 2002. The project was created with the help of local businesses and the city of Miami to set several roosters with different themes along Southwest Eighth Street and Flagler Street in Little Havana. Pedro Portal El Nuevo Herald

The colorful birds began appearing along Calle Ocho and surrounding streets in 2002 as part of “Rooster Walk,” a project that built on efforts to celebrate neighborhood culture.

Miami went with a rooster theme after Coral Gables placed huge flamingo statues on its streets, according to Rooster Walk’s creator, the late artist Pedro Damián.

Each fiberglass sculpture was $2,750, according to the Miami Herald archive. Empowerment Zone, a publicly funded agency that invests in low-income neighborhoods, paid for eight of the sculptures. Many businesses also commissioned rooster sculptures.

The sculptures followed in two designs and were made by late Cuban sculptors Tony López and Ramón Lago.

You can still find the roosters on the streets of Miami, including the one dressed as a bullfighter next to a hen, in front of Casa Juancho restaurant. A rooster still stands in front of La Carreta, too, though it’s not the same one that was there in 2002.

The roosters have become a popular attraction in Little Havana — and selfies with the gallos are a must.

Can you throw used at-home COVID tests in the trash?

It’s OK to toss your tests. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Miami Herald that used at-home test kits can be thrown out with your everyday garbage. If you want to be extra careful, double-bag your trash.

You should also check the instructions that come with the test in case the manufacturer has additional guidance. For example, Abbott says you can recycle the box of its BinaxNOW at-home test (this is the kit Miami-Dade and Broward gave away during the holidays) but you should dispose the test card, nasal swab and test solution in the trash.

And no matter which test you take, once you’re done, make sure to clean and disinfect surfaces that the swab, tube and other parts of the kit touched, the CDC says.

Wash your hands, too.

How did Miami become the 305? What about Broward’s 954?

Miami is smitten with its 305 area code. We rep it hard. On our clothes. In our music (we’re looking at you, Pitbull). And on social media. The “305 till I die” swagger is part of our identity. And, we got it by luck.

Before the 305 was Miami’s baby, the area code was used by all of Florida from the Keys to Tallahassee. It was one of the first 86 area codes in the country created through the National Numbering Plan in 1947.

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The 305 area code was one of the first 86 codes created through the National Numbering Plan in 1947. It was used by all of Florida. Courtesy of the North American Numbering Plan Administrator

But then, as Florida’s population boomed — as did the number of new residential phones, business phones, and later, cellphones, faxes and beepers — 305 numbers began to run out.

It was time for the North American Numbering Plan Administrator to assign new area codes. Through the years, new area codes were given to other parts of the state. In 1995, Broward was put on notice: It would be known as 954, leaving Miami-Dade and Monroe with the highly prized 305. And with the number of cellphone numbers still exploding, the Miami area got a second area code in the late 1990s. But no one says, “Welcome to the 786.”

Why do we give names to tropical storms and hurricanes?

For decades, storms were named based arbitrarily on the damage they did, like the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. In the West Indies, hurricanes were named after the saint’s day on which they made landfall.

Eventually, meteorologists became skilled enough to predict when a storm was on its way and needed to label storms before they struck land. They figured out it’s easier to get people to pay attention to a name rather than a number. Names also make it easier to differentiate between simultaneous storms.

Currently, there are six lists in rotation, so the same names come up every few years unless they’re retired due to a storm causing major damage, like Hurricane Andrew did in 1992.

Who made the Santa’s Enchanted Forest jingle that’s stuck in my head?

Luis Alva, 67, of Kendall is the man behind the jingle.

He is a “semi-retired” award-winning music composer, arranger and producer who has worked with some of Latin music’s most well-known artists including José Luis “El Puma” Rodríguez and Los Melódicos. One of the groups he created, Los Fantasmas del Caribe (Ghosts of the Caribbean), became one of the most successful Latin groups in the ‘90s.

“Music has been the grand passion of my life since I was a boy,” Alva told the Miami Herald in Spanish.

And his talent is like magic.

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Luis Alva plays his guitar at home. Courtesy of Luis Alva

More than 400 songs recorded. Forty gold records, 28 platinum and 16 double platinum certifications. BMI’s 1994 Latin Songwriter of the Year in the USA. The creator of techno merengue.

Alva was born in Chiclayo, Peru, and his musical journey began in high school. That’s where he learned to play several instruments, including his beloved saxophone. His career took him to Lima, Venezuela, Mexico and the United States, where he settled in South Florida with his family.

In Miami, he created an all-girl, bilingual singer-dancer group called FRESH. The up-and-coming group had potential and even appeared on a Disney Channel program with Christina Aguilera, he said.

FRESH sings the jingle and can be seen in the theme park’s original commercials, which can be found on YouTube.

I renewed my Florida driver’s license online during COVID. Can I do it again next time?

If you opt to renew your license online or by mail, you’ll have to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles office for your next renewal. Then you’ll be eligible to renew online or by mail next time.

Remember, your driver’s license is a photo ID, and appearances can change through the years. When you renew online or by mail, the same photo is used. When you renew in person at the DMV, a new photo is taken.

There are also some restrictions on who is eligible to renew online or by mail. Drivers are required to visit a DMV branch to renew if they want to update the photo, change a name either with a court order or marriage certificate, or are not REAL ID compliant.

TIP: If your license has a star in the upper right corner, you’re REAL ID compliant. To check your eligibility status, visit

My neighborhood is overrun by iguanas. How can I get rid of them?

Sorry to break this to you: Iguanas are a fact of life in South Florida. These green, scaly reptiles are an ever-present reality once you choose trading in snow shovels for beach chairs.

But don’t expect to call animal control and have anyone help you if one of these critters is lounging on your lawn. There is no state, city or local program to remove iguanas the way there is for, say, a random opossum or coyote.

Instead, you have two options:

1. Call in a professional trapper who will come to your house, remove the unwanted visitor and then humanely kill it.

2. Kill it yourself

Florida law lets you capture and kill iguanas, which are not native to the state. However, due to anti-cruelty laws, the animal can’t suffer. This means they can’t be drowned or exposed to prolonged pain, said Harold Rondan, a trapper with Iguana Lifestyles in North Miami Beach.

How do you know if you’re in Miami, another city or unincorporated Miami-Dade?

Not everyone who lives in Miami-Dade lives in Miami, despite what your post office address says.

Miami-Dade County is made up of 34 incorporated municipalities, and Miami is one of them. The city was incorporated on July 28, 1896, and has its own mayor, city commission, police department and other city services, including garbage pickup.

The county oversees unincorporated neighborhoods including Westchester, Kendall and the Redland.

It’s sometimes difficult to know where you are. Maybe you’ve just moved to South Florida, have decided to venture out of your neighborhood bubble or are stuck on the border between cities or even counties. You could also be bad with directions.

You are lost. And sometimes Google is wrong.

Miami’s skyline. CARL JUSTE [email protected]

If you want to double-check whether an address is in unincorporated Miami-Dade or within a municipality, the county has an online map you can use, The map has a variety of search options, including by address, landmark, intersection, municipality and commission district.

Type in the address and then select “Municipalities” in the Information Layer tab. Then click the blue circle on the map that is marking the location of that address. Unincorporated Miami-Dade or the name of the city, town or village the address belongs to should appear on the result panel, which should be on the left-hand side of the screen.

Now you can look like a pro with addresses — and know which locality to call for services.

But even with your newfound geographical expertise, let’s be honest: We’re still going to say, “I’m from Miami.”

Why does Miami-Dade have so many police departments?

Miami-Dade County has more than 30 police departments, each with its own leadership.

Cities in Miami-Dade that have their own police include Coral Gables, Miami Beach, North Miami, Aventura and Doral. County police cover the unincorporated areas.

“There are different police departments because each agency governs certain jurisdictions in which they are responsible for,” said Kiara Delva, a spokeswoman for the Miami Police Department.

Delva said, “It would not be appropriate to send an officer from across town to address the situation because chances are it will not get addressed within a reasonable time.”

The leadership of each municipality decides whether they want their own department or to contract with the county for police services. Miami Lakes and Palmetto Bay, for instance, have agreements with Miami-Dade police to cover their jurisdictions.

However, while officers are charged with covering a specific area, they can help or enforce the law outside of their jurisdiction if they witness a crime, said Alvaro Zabaleta, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Police Department.

How have the different cultures in South Florida influenced Spanglish?

If this were “Twilight,” Miami would be Team Switzerland, with how frequently people switch between English and Spanish.

After all, if you can’t remember la palabra que necesita decir, Spanglish lets you say it, en otro idioma.

But Spanglish gets a bad rap, sort of like a trashy or corrupted version of Spanish. But the derisive attitude toward Spanglish appears to be changing. And not just in Miami. Spanglish has become more popular in the U.S., especially among younger Hispanics.

Artists like Pitbull have English and Spanish lyrics in their music. Miami-born actress Jenny Lorenzo (best known for her Abuela character) specializes in Spanglish. Popular digital media companies We Are Mitú and BuzzFeed have videos and lists about Spanglish. And colleges across the country even teach about Spanglish.

But, it still has its controversy. Not everyone considers Spanglish to be a language. Some say it’s a dialect. Others see it as slang.

For Phillip Carter, an associate professor of linguistics at Florida International University and an expert on Miami English (yes, it’s a thing), Spanglish — the skill of switching from English to Spanish smoothly in conversation — is a “reflection of the linguistic capabilities” of people who live in a bilingual area where both languages are frequently used.

The practice has even led to the creation of Spanglish words, or words that are a mixture of English and Spanish, like parquear, clickear and textear.

In South Florida, Spanglish began to take shape as the children of Cubans who fled to Miami in the 1960s began to learn English. It has evolved over the years as more Spanish speakers from other countries, with their own dialects and phrases, arrived. It also has its own “grammatical logic.” This isn’t just a Miami thing, though.

Languages have always influenced each other and language blending has been seen before with other immigrant groups that make it to the U.S.

As a linguist, Carter says it’s “remarkable to witness” in real-time “because Miami is the largest meeting of the two largest languages to have been in competition with each other in colonialism.”

However, speaking Spanglish is not the same as “borrowing” words. English borrows the word “taco,” for example. In South Florida, everyone who lives here probably has arroz, cafecito and ropa vieja in their vocabulary, too.

We know, it’s a bit complicated. Pero like, this is how language works.

“Languages influence each other, just like cultures do when they come into contact with each other,” Carter said.


Miami Herald staff writers Madeleine Marr, Forrest Milburn, Alex Harris and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and Michelle covers it as a Real Time/Breaking News Reporter for the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors from Florida International University, where she served as the editor-in-chief of Student Media PantherNOW. Previously, she worked as a news writer at WSVN Channel 7 and was a 2020-2021 Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism fellow.

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