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Paul Reyes

Paul Reyes is VQR’s Editor and is the author of Exiles in Eden: Life Among the Ruins of Florida’s Great Recession (2010). He has published several articles in VQR, including “Opportunity Knocks,” his essay about the Miami organization Take Back the Land, which was a finalist for a Harry Chapin Media Award. His writing—which has appeared in Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, and the Oxford American—has also earned him a nomination for a National Magazine Award in Feature Writing as well as a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Author

Vultures Rising

Spring 2011 | Essays

One October afternoon in downtown Miami, I met up for a Sunday drive with Peter Zalewski, a condo-slinger whose company, Condo Vultures, has been feeding on the remains of Miami’s real estate implosion. “This is the pit,” he said. “New York City, Chicago—they have their trading pits. This is our pit, this is where we get to trade. I’m buying or I’m selling, that’s all it is. You want to trade pork bellies, go to Chicago. You want to trade Fortune 500 stocks, go to New York. You want to trade real estate, come to Miami.” He sucked on his cigarette. “I mean, what’s the difference between a condo and a pork belly?” he asked, then shrugged. “Not that much.”

 

(All photographs by Paul Reyes)

Opportunity Knocks

Fall 2009 | Reporting

This is Max Rameau seizing the moment: hunting down foreclosed houses left idle by the banks, or by the city, so that he can take them over. Rameau contends that everyone, no matter what, deserves a home, and he considers the surplus of empty, deteriorating foreclosures a gross waste of a precious resource. “For me, personally,” Rameau says, “it’s about provoking a contentious debate.” And if breaking into a bank’s neglected inventory is the way to get that conversation started, then so be it.

One Shot Fells a Thousand Tons

An iceberg had drifted deep into White Bay, near the hamlet of Sop’s Arm, and was stuck there, depreciating quickly in the mild summer waters. Ed Kean and I were riding up to claim it. This was Newfoundland in June, where every summer the proof of global warming came down in scraps and pieces: icebergs, prehistoric and luminescent, breaking off Greenland’s glacial shelf to float south along the Labrador Current, finally dissolving in the warmer Gulf Stream. During the pleasant months between March and October, several hundred icebergs moved past Newfoundland this way, at an imperceptible pace, in what locals called the migrating season. It had long been a staple of a tourism shtick. For a handful of fisherman for whom the fish had run out—the cod that was once their livelihood now endangered—icebergs had become the next best natural resource, and a way to put their idle nets and gaffs and boats to good use. For Kean, as long as the ice was moving, there was work to be done.

Tom, René, and José on horseback, Alta Habana. (Image courtesy of the author)

Patria y Muerte

Winter 2009 | Essays

My father wanted out. In a matter of days we’d trotted through a vigil for a Cuban childhood interrupted. I had anticipated creeping toward these emotional watersheds. But Hurricane Gustav had thrown us off, tightened the trip’s deadline. So we darted from spot to spot: the house where Rifé brought my father to live; where my father was put to work the next year (La Unica still in operation but with only an elderly woman idly guarding sacks of flour); to Quivicán, where the past crashed down in fits but the dreaded specter of politics was salved by pork and rum and artful bullshitting, by legends of the farm and the physical reality of René’s grave, the mystery of his whereabouts finally made palpable. Through it all, we never stopped sweating. My father, for one, was visibly thinner in a week’s time, his belt, notched by habit, sagging below his waist button. Rather than clearing the air, the storm had brought a worse heat in its wake.