Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 010318 Contents 32 • 1.3 .2018
Julio Capó Jr’s new book “Welcome to Fairyland:
Queer Miami Before 1940” takes on the very
difficult task of chronicling Miami’s queer history
prior to 1940. Until now, little has been written about
Miami’s gay history except perhaps a few sporadic pieces
in LGBT publications from the past that have been
In fact much of that history is pretty recent. It’s
easy to write about very contemporary LGBT history
since topics like AIDS, gay marriage, and gays in the
military for example remain topical. It’s much harder
to write about LGBT history early in Miami’s history
since homosexuality is not a topic that was commonly
discussed in recorded history.
While academic in presentation, the newly published
book reads very easily to anyone interested in local gay
history, a goal Capó tells me he set out to accomplish
when he first conceived the idea for the book.
Today we know Miami as the “magic city,” but the
term “fairyland” as described by Capó was a colloquial
term used to describe the Miami area in its earliest
days. Likely derived from the known queer urban
archetype used to describe individuals as being “gender
introverts,” Capó says early on he knew the term likely
meant different things to different people and wrote
each chapter to reflect a “different dimension of the
term, describing how each group of people navigated
fairyland in radically different ways.”
Capó’s extensive research begins describing Miami’s
“queer frontier.” Less than 10,000 people lived in Miami
in its first few decades and the city mostly consisted of
working class men who spent the better part of their free
time in some of Miami’s rough saloons that dominated
the northern part of the city; drinking and gambling.
Despite a majority amount of people settling in Miami
from the north, Capo shows us that Miami was indeed
the colonial intersection between the Caribbean and
the U.S . even then, and it was those immigrants (legal or
not) that helped define the queer landscape in the area.
Some of these early settlers all roomed together with
other men and sexual encounters among them were not
all that uncommon.
In great detail, Capó showcases some rare water-color
works of early Miami settler John Singer Sargent. An
alleged lover of Vizcaya estate owner James Deering and
now remembered for his water color paintings, Sargent
painted several explicit images around Vizcaya during
its contraction of nude men resting on sand bars along
Capó goes on to note the surprising detail Sargent
gave to the physic of the men, their muscle tones, and
other features. In further discussion of Vizcaya there is
great detail into the homosexuality of James Deering and
his various relationships.
Additional research Capó shares in the book details
written accounts of young gay men who arrived in
Miami in the 1930s offering great insight to the world
of prohibition and how it impacted the gay community.
One example even describes one young man’s various
sexual encounters with men as he shared them with a
Perhaps one of the most astonishing mentions in the
book is the in depth discussion of the sexuality of early
Miami settler, feminist, and environmentalist Marjory
Stoneman Douglas. She was a strong opponent of having
a dominating male partner, unlike most women at the
time, and her writings indicate she was sympathetic of
many alleged gay men of the time.
The book finishes off with Capó describing the gay
scene after prohibition when it began to take shape to
the way we know it today including the beginning of drag
shows in Miami and the strong activism South Florida
has come to be known for in regards to homosexuality.
For any history buff, Capó’s book is truly a gem that
sheds a lot of light on an era in our state’s history that
gets little notoriety outside of the gay media circuit.
Capó is a native Floridian and an Assistant Professor of
History at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
He will be a visiting professor in early 2018 at Florida
Atlantic University, where he will teach about LGBT
history. He will also give several lectures about the topic
open to the public at both Florida Atlantic and Florida
Welcome to Fairyland
New book of Miami’s early queer history
Photo: Don Ramey Logan.
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