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Guest Juanky

About a nice little rivalry that goes on in Miami.....Here Maggs lazy ass p.o.s.

 

Belen vs. Columbus: At Miami City Hall, rivalry abides

 

Ribbing each other as they work together, Belen and Columbus graduates -- now Miami administrators -- perpetuate the schools' rivalry.

 

BY OSCAR CORRAL

 

ocorral@herald.com

 

 

Over the years, students from Christopher Columbus High School and Belen Jesuit Preparatory have targeted each other's school signs in scavenger hunts, created a long list of degrading nicknames for the other side, and mimicked each other in school skits.

 

One would think such juvenile tomfoolery ceases after graduation. But what happens when alumni from both schools are crammed together for long hours in an environment as civilized and professional as Miami's City Hall?

 

With a wink and a nod, the rivalry lives on.

 

It begins with Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, a Belen graduate, who maintains that his chief of staff, Columbus alumnus Francois Illas, lettered in ''synchronized swimming'' in high school, instead of water polo. The rivalry extends to Columbus graduate and former City Manager Carlos Gimenez, who never quite won over Diaz's heart.

 

''There is no rivalry,'' Diaz says flatly. ``Columbus doesn't count.''

 

Diaz's City Hall is stocked with alumni from both schools who just can't help taking shots at their rivals.

 

Of course, at this age, they are more likely to go for a beer after work -- or collaborate on major projects -- than meet in a dark parking lot for a fight.

 

Illas claims he is far from the mayor's whipping boy.

 

''I never swallow my pride. You have to hit back quickly,'' he says staunchly. Then he concedes, ``I had to put up a Belen plaque on my wall to survive.''

 

PICKING ON THE MAYOR

 

Not all Columbus graduates take a bashing lightly. Javier Fernandez, an aide to City Manager Joe Arriola, rips on Diaz's height.

 

''Only at Belen could the captain of the basketball, football and baseball team be 5 foot 4 and weigh 150 pounds,'' said Fernandez, who admits he is not much taller.

 

On a recent afternoon in City Hall, Belen graduate Ignacio Ortiz-Petit, another aide to Arriola, was sitting in the office of Belen alumnus Otto Boudet, Manny Diaz's chief economic development advisor. They were reminiscing about the past.

 

In walked Illas, who quietly approached a computer and typed in the website address of Christopher Columbus High School. The home page flashed the words ``Celebrating 46 years of Excellence.''

 

''Hah,'' Ortiz-Petit yelled. ``Let me show you a real website.''

 

He typed in his alma mater's web page. ``Celebrating 150 years of Jesuit education.''

 

Ortiz-Petit leaned back proudly in his chair.

 

''Whatever,'' Illas said.

 

Asked later whether he feels there is a rivalry, Illas laughs. ''When you spend 15 hours a day with people, it will come up,'' he said.

 

City Hall women, and in fact anybody who didn't graduate from these two schools, naturally are dumbfounded. Diaz's press secretary, Kelly Penton, says it's annoying.

 

''When they're talking with each other I can't be a part of the conversation because I'm not from Belen,'' said Penton, who graduated from Monsignor Edward Pace High School. ``It's like a cult, the Belen cult. I think it's funny that grown men still have this kind of rivalry.''

 

Although Arriola is a La Salle graduate, his four sons graduated from Columbus. Asked what he thought about the rivalry, Arriola scoffed, ``You're talking about the superiority of Columbus over Belen, right? The real brain trust of the city didn't go to Belen.''

 

Columbus and Belen have so much in common, they can't help but be rivals.

 

MUCH ALIKE

 

Both all-male schools are based on Catholic educations, have a history of turning out community leaders, and have strong athletic and academic programs.

 

Columbus, which costs about $600 a month, is run by the Marist Brothers, a Catholic order. The ethnic breakdown of the school's 1,300 students is similar to that of the county as a whole.

 

''You are talking about two very fine Catholic schools,'' said Brother Patrick McNamara, who runs the school with Brother Kevin Handibode. But, of course, ''from east to west, Columbus is best,'' he said.

 

Belen, which was founded in Cuba in 1854 and was taken over by Fidel Castro, has been in Miami since 1961 and costs more than $800 a month. It is run by Cuban Jesuit priests and the 1,200-member student body, which runs from sixth through 12th grade, is mostly made up of Cuban-American and other Hispanic boys.

 

The Rev. Marcelino Garcia, Belen's president, said Belen purposely prepares its students to aspire to be influential in their communities. While he acknowledges the Columbus rivalry, he thinks students and graduates from both schools should treat each other fairly.

 

''We can't say lies about our enemies, or humiliate our enemies,'' he said.

 

Some people will never believe they are equals. Diaz, for one, says Columbus is inferior to Belen academically. Asked whether he would have sent his sons to Columbus, Diaz was definite: ''Never.'' His sons both went to public school.

 

''Most kids who go to Columbus, they can't get into Belen,'' Diaz jokes.

 

Or, as Boudet told Illas one recent afternoon about Columbus: ``You'll let anybody in.''

 

Illas says Columbus is just as good as Belen academically, but insists the Belen Wolverines are no match for the Columbus Explorers in athletics. Except, of course, for the startling upset victory that Belen pulled off against Columbus this year in basketball, 55-54.

 

''You may as well bask in it because it will never happen again,'' Illas tells Boudet.

 

''It's like a great thoroughbred that lost one race in 150,'' Arriola explains.

 

Asked what message he'd like to send his former employer about Belen, former City Manager and Columbus graduate Carlos Gimenez said he respected the school. Kind of. ''I think both are outstanding schools,'' he said. However, ``Belen starters couldn't warm our bench.''

 

So how did Gimenez like working for Diaz?

 

''I just couldn't stand working for a Belen guy,'' he said. ``Just kidding. It's just back and forth ribbing. No animosity there. It's like a Harvard/Yale thing.''

 

ALL IN GOOD FUN

 

So does this display of civic maturity affect relations at Miami City Hall?

 

Ortiz-Petit tries to soften the appearance of true competition.

 

''It's good fun, it really doesn't affect our relations,'' he said.

 

Fernandez agrees: ``At the end of the day, we have the same kind of core values. Of course, when I went to high school, we always did better with the Lourdes [Academy]girls.''

 

Belen, Columbus, La Salle, Miami High: It doesn't much matter once you enter the work force. Or so they say.

 

''When you get out here and start working in the real world, it doesn't matter where you came from, what school you went to, or what you have hanging up on the wall,'' Illas said. ``It's how you do the job.''

 

Replied Boudet on the sly: ``We let him think that way.''

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So it isn't true that Belen guys are gay? :huh WOW I've been mislead by a Columbus senior all this time... :mischief

No, it's true. It's true. As a Columbus alumnus, those pansies at Belen will never approach us in excellence! :D

 

As an aside, I went to Columbus with Francois and Eddy Arriola (Joe's son) was our class president and a good friend of mine.

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Guest Juanky

So it isn't true that Belen guys are gay? :huh WOW I've been mislead by a Columbus senior all this time... :mischief

No, it's true. It's true. As a Columbus alumnus, those pansies at Belen will never approach us in excellence! :D

 

As an aside, I went to Columbus with Francois and Eddy Arriola (Joe's son) was our class president and a good friend of mine. Naw, as a Senior at Belen, I must tell you that you have it wrong. But with an inferior education, one can clearly see where the mistake could have been made :hat

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And the leaders of the free and not so free world, whichever.

JOKES.

 

Wow. High School stuff not dying after graduation. How... Stupid.

 

I mean, I'll always hate Michigan, but I go to OSU and we play them in football every year (Hell, I'd go so far as to call it one of the best rivalries in all of sports). But HIGH SCHOOL, STUFF!?

 

Whatever.

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