El Portal

There’s A Secret Buddhist Temple In This Miami House

What’s News In This Story?


–Located right in the middle of a neighborhood, The Open Awareness Buddhist Center has been open and aware for about 15 years.

-Run by Lama Karma Chotso, the center is located in a house in El Portal. 

-For dozens of members, it is a place of real refuge. 

-It is located right on the banks of The Little River. 

-The center started in 1996, when it was located in a Hollywood bungalow. 

-A patron gave the group money to purchase the property from a fellow member in 2003. 

-According to Lama Chotso, there was some controversy at the time about having a Buddhist Songha in the middle of a residential street- but she was able to win over the neighbors. 

-The center offers yoga sessions as well as other Buddhist related activities- including Sunday services. 

This Miami Beach Synagogue Is About To Make History

Miami’s Secret Native American Burial Mound

The Tequesta burial mound in El Portal, FL is not well known outside of the small village in which it is located.

But it should be.

Here’s why:

Miami’s Shame: Little Farm Trailer Park Sinks Into Slum As Chinese Land Owners Ignore Resident’s Plight

The closest that most of the world has come to the Little Farm was during the pilot episode of HBO’s original series Ballers.

In the show, retired NFL player Charles Greane works as a salesman at the very real Tropical Chevrolet car dealership (8800 Biscayne Blvd) before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson swoops in to convince him to get back on the field.

But three blocks away at the Little Farm trailer park in El Portal (8500 Biscayne Blvd), the HBO cameras wouldn’t dream of going. No luxury to be found there. Just unspeakable despair.

There, one of Miami’s former great working class neighborhoods has been turned into a slum by years of bad landlords and poor governmental oversight.

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Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

The Little Farm is not talked about much- mostly because few people seem to know about it and even fewer care.

There’s lots of poor people in Miami and the area’s middle class is somewhat used to the idea that poverty is close to home.

Homeless men and women are a ubiquitous site at most I-95 off ramps in the area, meaning that it is near impossible to avoid the thought of abject poverty on your daily commute.

And yet, we ignore it and go home to our comfortable lives filled with Netflix and minor inconveniences.

But the Little Farm is different.

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Empty trailer at the Little Farm in El Portal. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

I’ve lived six minutes away my entire life and didn’t know about it until a few months ago when one of our reporters wrote about it.

And even then, I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening there until I got off my ass and drove into the development last week.

“They Didn’t Tell Us Nothing”

Clairmise Blanc is fed up.

A youthful looking Haitian woman in her early 70’s, Blanc is the defacto point person for outsiders to the Little Farm. She also lives right next to a burnt out trailer that stinks to high heavens.

“My husband died on April 22, 2011 and left me here alone,” Blanc said to me, causing me to pause and offer my condolences. “I’d like to live here. But there’s no future in this. Everything is down, especially at the nighttime. Too many people are drug addicts here. I don’t like it no more. I’ve tried to find other places to go.”

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Clairmise Blanc. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

Born in Haiti, she moved to the United States in 1981 and has lived at the Little Farm for eight years. She owns her own trailer, but it is poor shape, with holes in the windows and a sagging look to it. She also pays $450 a month for the trailer to sit on her small plot.

At one time, hundreds of trailers dotted the 17 acre property, but after a Chinese company bought the property last year, people started getting evicted. Then came the buy out offers– $2,000 to up and leave.

If you didn’t take the deal, it wouldn’t matter much because you had to leave under the terms of a deal the Village of El Portal signed with the Chinese company- Wealthy Delight.

From a Miami New Times report on Little Farm a few months ago:

“One day last February, everything changed. Little Farm was sold for $14.25 million, and Wealthy Delight, a company based in Coral Gables but whose owners are difficult to trace, took over. Soon it became clear the Village of El Portal had agreed to forgive more than $8 million in liens on the site if the new owners paid $575,000 and razed the mobile home park.”

Many people took the buy outs and soon their trailers were razed.

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A lot where a trailer once stood. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

Legal action has delayed the complete eviction of the remaining residents at Little Farm, but only around 40 people remain according to Blanc. And they will all certainty will be pushed out in the coming months.

“They didn’t tell us nothing,” Blanc said. “They’ve tried to push us away. It’s not fair.”

The Fire

According to multiple witnesses, a fire broke out in a Little Farm trailer on the evening of February 19th.

“It was a mother, son and a daughter was living in there,” Blanc said.

While no one was hurt, the fire was intense and devastating.

The family living there had to move- one less eviction for Wealthy Delight to conduct.

Blanc’s trailer sits less than 15 feet away from the burnt out trailer. Nearly two months after the blaze, little has been cleaned up and the smell is starting to become unbearable for the remaining residents in the area.

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Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

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Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

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Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

“I’m tired of that smell, it just stinks,” Blanc said. “I want them to clean this thing. It is a mess. People can’t live like this.”

I start to cough after the breeze picks up and I notice how disgusting the burnt out remnants really are.

“That’s the office right there,” Blanc said while pointing towards the land lord management building across the road.

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The view of the burnt out trailer from Blanc’s trailer. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

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The view of the burnt out trailer (behind the trees) from the porch of the land lord management building. Photo Credit: Rich Robinson/ RISE NEWS.

The burnt out unit is directly in front of the office, which means that the land lord would have to see it everyday as they arrive for work.

“They don’t care,” Blanc said of Wealthy Delight. “You think if they cared, they would have cleaned it a long time ago. But it’s been two months now. If they cared, they would have cleaned it because people are living here.

I ask her if she thinks the trailer hasn’t been cleaned up as a way to get her to move.

She demurs and says that in order for her to leave they are going to have to fork out more money.

El Portal Village Manager Jason Walker told RISE NEWS that he had not been aware of the fire but that it was the landlord’s responsibility to clean it up.

A representative for Wealthy Delight refused to answer questions on the phone and asked for questions via email, which they have also not answered.

Have a tip? Email us at editor@risenews.net. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us

All Photo Credits: Rich Robinson/RISE NEWS.

These Miami-Area Trailer Park Residents Are Being Kicked Out With Nowhere To Go

Nearly 350 residents face eviction from the Little Farm Mobile Home trailer park in El Portal, FL and many of them don’t know where to go.

The trailer park was sold for $14 million to Wealthy Delight, a Coral Gables-based company, potentially leaving residents homeless.

“I am very angry. I bought this place to live and now I don’t know where I’m going. I have kids that go to school and I don’t work because I am sick, only my husband works,” Sophia Alexandre, who’s lived in the trailer park for over four years said. “I don’t know what is going to happen to us.”

The new owners gave residents until February of 2016 to move out and offered $2,000 for compensation, when the initial notice of eviction came earlier this year.

El Portal is a small community located about 15 minutes north of downtown Miami.

Now, a group of residents are fighting for their homes and have sued the property’s current and former owners, holding demonstrations and storming Village Council meetings.

The lawsuit alleges that the village of El Portal unlawfully forgave more than $8 million in liens, in exchange for assurances that the new owner would close down the mobile home park.

“Mobile homes are the last form of nonsubsidized affordable housing in Miami Dade County,” Kian White, an attorney who represented the individuals in court told RISE NEWS. “That money they offered doesn’t even get you a first month, last month security.”

The case was dismissed before going to trial but after White’s appeal, the case was put on an expedited track and will be heard on January 6.

“While everyone else gets ahead, these people lose everything,” Frederick said. “It all comes down to the settlement.”

In Florida, according to White, there’s a state law that deals with mobile home parks, which prohibits government action to close or relocate residents of a park without alternative housing.

“The park’s owner has a right to sell the land but they’ve got to do it right,” White said. “The village just didn’t do that.”

In a Miami Herald article, Alejandro E. Jordan, general counsel and real estate advisor to Wealthy Delight, refused to comment on the matter.

“As a matter of firm’s policy, unfortunately we cannot comment on ongoing litigation,” he told the Herald.

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A construction crew works on taking down a mobile home in the Little Farm Trailer park in El Portal, FL. Photo Credit: Nicole Montero/ RISE NEWS

Kian Frederick, an organizer working with South Florida Voices for Working Families, a nonprofit social justice organization, said that everyone is making money out of this deal, except for the residents.

“While everyone else gets ahead, these people lose everything,” Frederick said. “It all comes down to the settlement.”

But the settlement doesn’t say anything about the welfare of the residents.

“The village of El Portal just throws them out, doesn’t care and claim they do and we can’t do anything,” Frederick said. “They can do something. They can do zoning. They can zone this place for affordable housing and they can help us negotiate with the owners to get these folks their money.”

Astrude Auguste a 17 year old resident of the Little Farm, said the letter telling them to move came out of nowhere and that her family was not expecting it.

“It’s not like we have money to go somewhere else,” she said. “What are we supposed to do? Where are we supposed to go? The problem is not moving. The problem is how we’re going to move. With what? Where’s our money?”

Auguste said that she understands having to move, but she won’t like moving in the middle of the school year.

“I won’t like it, but I guess that’s just what we’re going to have to do,” Auguste said. “I’m really just worried about where we’re going to go. The fact is that we have nowhere to go if they kick us out. We’re losing everything here.”

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Life goes on as much as it possibly can in the soon to be leveled Little Farm Trailer park in El Portal, FL. Photo Credit: Nicole Montero/ RISE NEWS

Some people are not allowed to come back to their homes to get their stuff once they’re kicked out, said Auguste.

“So we lose all out stuff and we get kicked out,” Auguste said. “We’re children and families. If it’s just you, you could’ve said ‘OK I’ll stay at a friend’s house for awhile’ but my father has two children living with him. There’s nowhere else to go. Now we’re just waiting.”

Sauveur Blanc, a four-year homeowner at the park, bought his home for $7,000, after years of saving.

“It was hard to save that kind of money,” Blanc said. “I live here legally and I always pay my rent. I feel so sad. I don’t feel well. It is too much for me and there is too much discrimination here. I can’t really tell you what could happen and, right now, I feel very scared. I believe in God and I believe he can do everything for us. That’s what I’m hoping for.”

Frederick said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of some residents because the village of El Portal did not look for an adequate place for residents to go.

“We’re hopeful that in a higher court they’ll have more sense and be able to look at the law because it’s not about keeping the park open, it’s about getting their fair share when everyone else is making money,” Frederick said.

The Village of El Portal was unavailable for comment by time of publication of this story.

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