Goodbye to my dear friend Max

We were saddened to report that Max J. Castro, Progreso Weekly columnist and friend, died last Friday (July 1). He was 71-years-old.

I knew of Max Castro way before we became friends — through his work at the University of Miami’s North South Center; as a columnist for The Miami Herald; as a college professor; and for the many other things he did in Miami that were never recognized enough for their importance. That is Miami for you, though: Max was not on the right side of a host of issues, according to many of the powers-that-be in this city. What Max was, without a doubt, was true to himself and his beliefs. He fought for them, defended them (brilliantly), and too often paid the price.   

We would run into each other occasionally, say hello, discuss a thing or two, and keep going. For example, we once traveled together with a large group to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress and discuss the U.S.-Cuba issue. On the ride home, in our chartered airplane, a group of us had a blast.

I also remember calling him in the summer of 2000, when I was running for the Miami-Dade county commission. We met for coffee and he honestly told me he did not know me well enough to write about me in his Herald column. I respected that. And yet he still mentioned me in his column the following week.

Max was a complex man. I have learned over time that brilliant people usually are. But Max was one of those people we get to meet over a lifetime that makes us richer for having met them. He was learned, a sociologist with a PhD from the University of North Carolina. He had read more books than any person I’ve ever met, and yet, as the intellectual that he was, was not a bore. (To the intellectuals out there, sorry, but you often take yourselves too seriously.) Max, in fact, used to love to laugh, make fun of himself and enjoy life. He loved to ride his bike, snorkel where he’d bring home found treasures, smoke cigars, drink whiskey… he loved life.

Our friendship really started after Max ran into a Miami who had had enough of his candor. Because Miami is the type of town that loves to show off its beautiful beaches, million dollar homes, the perfectly kept neighborhoods of the rich, and Rolls Royces and Bentleys driven by the one percenters and their hard-bodied girlfriends or boyfriends, while it hides what ails it. And Max dedicated himself to pointing flood lights on what was really needed in one of the poorest areas in the country. His stand on U.S. Cuba policy, and that of Israel, was not very popular either. 

He lost his job at the Herald and soon thereafter the one at the University of Miami. As for the Herald, I can honestly say he was discarded — like waste. He did not fit in the fake Miami they try to present.

After the Herald rid of him I called and asked that he write for us. I insisted that his words were important. And from that day onward he became our most consistent writer. He was an eloquent critic of what is happening in this country. Read his last two columns, and you will see what I mean. He was usually right on point. He’d call me after having written a piece and days later something similar would run in The New York Times or the Washington Post. Or he’d predict what would happen. 

Over a period of the last 20 years we became friends. Good friends. We would speak often, mostly over the phone. Before the pandemic, we would meet for breakfast or lunch and talk about anything that came to mind, including sports, which he knew I loved. Once the virus started killing people, we would converse, but over the phone, and after we were vaccinated we’d sit in his backyard, he with a glass of whisky, I would drink the rum his lovely wife, Ive, would bring me from the Dominican Republic. 

And in that period, when we became friends, I learned to respect Max for who he was — a good and kind man. He was a gentle, sensitive and caring human being whose writing reflected what he wanted for the world — peace, equity and fairness.

I will miss him. Progreso Weekly has lost a true friend.  


Max Castro’s last column in Progreso Weekly

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