Angelo Gomez : Hialeah 2021


Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez. I’m nineteen years old and born here in Miami of Colombian descent. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. I am interning as a reporter for the South Florida Media Network at FIU. I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I speak Spanish and English, with a little mix of Italian and Portuguese here and there. I love to travel even though I don’t do it often enough. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer enthusiast.


Nestled in the geographical center of Miami-Dade County, there is no shortage of neighboring towns surrounding the city of Hialeah. They include Miami Lakes to the north, Hialeah Gardens to the West, Medley and Miami Springs to the south, and Opa-Locka, West Little River, Gladeview, and Brownsville to the east.

The city’s southern borders are mainly delineated by Okeechobee Road and by Amelia Earhart Park and FL State Road 916 (also known as NW 138th St) to the north. Hialeah’s urban geography is box and grid-like, while the neighboring towns of Miami Lakes and Miami Springs have differing street layouts more typical of suburbs.

Hialeah’s “main street” is considered 49th street, where the Westland Mall and Palm Springs Mile shopping plaza is located. Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus is also located on 49th street. Hialeah’s iconic JFK Library and Milander Park and Stadium are located across Red Road.

Hialeah is notorious for its lack of green space. In a study released by WalletHub, was ranked with the lowest percentage of green space in the entire country. Another study by WalletHub ranked Hialeah as the sixth-worst city in Recreation and parks.

A quick glance at the neighboring Miami Springs or Miami Lakes depicts more lakes and canals, and green spaces such as parks, golf courses, or pastures.


Early map of Hialeah (Photo in public domain)

Hialeah was developed by Glenn Curtis and James H. Bright and incorporated in 1921. The name “Hialeah” is a native indigenous term that means “high prairie.” During the city’s early years, the Hialeah Park and Casino was the city’s central attraction that brought visitors from all across the United States. During the 1920s until the beginning of the Great Depression, Hialeah blossomed into a tourist destination with a strong economy.

Intersection between Palm Avenue and County Road (Photo in public domain)

Traditionally, Hialeah has been a blue-collar city, home to the working class. Most of the workers of the Hialeah Park and Casino settled in the new city due to its cheap property value and short distance. The first homes developed in Hialeah were built off of County Road (now known as Okeechobee Road) and Hialeah Drive (First Street) with Palm Avenue. The city’s first homes, post offices, and shops were located around this area.

Following the 1926 Miami hurricane and the Great Depression, Hialeah experienced a post-war boom during the mid-century onwards. Led by iconic city mayor Henry Milander, who now has a park and stadium in the city named after him, he guided the city through an economic boom for more than three decades. According to the Miami Herald, the mayor offered tax incentives for businesses and industries to settle in Hialeah which payed off for the city. Likewise, the city experienced a population boom since its incorporation, growing at one of the fastest rates and being the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida.

Since the 1960s, there has been a great influx of Cuban exiles and Hispanic residents into the city of Hialeah. Many families fleeing from their former countries landed in Hialeah because of its inexpensive prices and joined the working community.


Hialeah is notorious for its Hispanic identity, and most notably for its Cuban population. These perceptions are largely true since the city’s population is 94% Hispanic and 73.37% Cuban. Hialeah is considered to be the largest population of Cuban residents in the entire United States. Policies such as the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot, dry foot” policy have facilitated Cuban exiles and refugees to settle in Miami and get their legal status. Thus, much have flocked to Hialeah to be surrounded by their culture. In a city originally founded by white settlers and pioneers, Hialeah has undergone a profound transformation.

Other demographic statistics show that 92.14% of the population speak Spanish primarily at home, and nearly 7% of the population speak English at home. Of the nearly 237,000 population, 74.3% of residents were born outside of the country and only 65.8% of residents are U.S. citizens, significantly lower than the national average. Hialeah is dominated by a Hispanic, foreign-born population. The city is considered the #2 city where Spanish is most spoken in the entire United States, behind Hialeah Gardens.


Balladares posing in front of a Burlington logo in Hialeah. (Photo by Leslia Balladares CC by 4.0)

What is your name and how long have you been living in Hialeah?

Hi, my name is Leslia Balladares and I have been living in Hialeah for about eight years.

What do you love about your city?

I love everything about my city, except traffic which is the worst.

How do you get around?

I don’t have a car so I get around everywhere through Uber for now.

What is your favorite restaurant?

My favorite restaurant is absolutely Los Ranchos Steakhouse near Westland Mall.


Hialeah Park and Casino

Built originally in 1922 by Glenn Curtis and James L. Bright, the Hialeah Park and race track served as a track for grayhound races and betting. Soon, it opened to horse racing and betting. Following the Miami hurricane of 1926, it was rebuilt and redeveloped into the new “Hialeah Park and Casino.” This is the most iconic landmark in Hialeah, and one of the most historic places in Miami, being one of the earliest recreational sites. The city’s website names “the Kennedy family, Harry Truman, General Omar Bradley, Winston Churchill, and J.P. Morgan” as some of the more popular figures that visited the place. In fact, Winston Churchill is quoted saying the place was “Extraordinary!” The site remained very popular throughout the later decades of the twentieth century and was reopened in 2013 with a casino and reintroducing quarter horse racing.

Hialeah Park and Racetrack (Photo in public Domain)

JFK Library

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

The John F. Kennedy Library on 49th street is the main campus of the Hialeah public library system. With its colorful murals surrounding the building, it is an attractive site to visit in Hialeah. There are often new murals and artwork outside the building, including a portrait of President John F. Kennedy and a trojan solider. The library offers a unique and extensive collection of Hialeah history. The site is a voting location during local and national elections.

Leah Arts District

Photo by Terrence Faircloth (CC by 2.0)

The Leah Arts District is a sector in Hialeah dedicated to public art and offering local artists “affordable living / work spaces while promoting art and culture,” according to the city’s website. Opened in 2015, stage festivals and public displays of art are organized to promote the up-and-coming art scene and artists that reside within the eccentric neighborhood. It is Hialeah’s unique take on public art similar to Wynwood and South Beach, but with its own local taste.


Despite being listed as one of the worst cities for Parks and recreation, Hialeah offers a variety of small parks and green areas to visit.

Amelia Earhart Park

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Amelia Earhart park is a 515-acre park in Hialeah which offers a wide variety of activities, such as biking, walking trails, soccer fields, extreme water sports, fishing piers, and picnic shelters. Amelia Earhart is one of the larger parks in Miami-Dade County available to Hialeah residents. The park is named after famous pilot Amelia Earhart since the former Miami Municipal Airport (now Opa-Locka Airport) nearby was her final appearance and goodbye before disappearing over the Atlantic.

Milander Park

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Milander Park is a 19.2 acre park, aquatic center, arts and entrainment venue, and stadium located on 49th street in Hialeah. The site has multiple basketball and baseball fields for recreational use. Additionally, there is a playground for children to use. The venue is used to display art exhibits and to host special events. The Ted Hendricks stadium is used for a variety of sporting events for different high schools and host the semi-professional soccer club Miami United.

Garden of the Arts

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Garden of the arts is small, open-air art display inside of a green park in Hialeah. This passive park consists of murals, sculptures, monuments, and a small amphitheater where guests can roam and walk around while admiring the artwork on display. According to their website, the City of Hialeah built this green park through he county’s Building Better Communities Bond Program.


Like the rest of Miami-Dade County, Hialeah is dominated by cars as the primary mode of transportation. According to DataUSA, the majority of households in Hialeah have two or three cars. The major highway that passes through the center of Hialeah is the Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway). The Florida Turnpike is nearby to the west and the Gratigny Parkway is accessible at the northern boundary, connecting Hialeah commuters to both I-75 to the west and I-95 to the east. Likewise, the Okeechobee Road delineates the city’s southern border and is accessible by taking the I-595/FL State Road 112 westward until it ends at Okeechobee Road near the Miami International Airport.

The city also offers public transportation, the Hialeah transit system. The buses run on two separate routes – the Marlin and Flamingo routes. The city’s website lists a full fare as $2.25 or a full monthly pass for $60.

Likewise, there are several public transportation options offered by Miami-Dade County that are accessible in Hialeah. The Metrobus offers many routes that connect or pass by Hialeah that are operational daily. The MetroRail has multiple stations in the city, such as the Tri-Rail/MetroRail, Okeechobee, and Hialeah stations. In the Miami Station, Amtrak trains and Tri-Rail trains are accessible to residents. Finally, the Tri-Rail has two stations within the city: in the Tri-Rail/MetroRail station and the Hialeah Market station leading to the airport.


Molina’s Ranch Restaurant

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

This restaurant opened in 1982, and has become a popular site among locals. This restaurant serves traditional Cuban food and cuisine familiar to much of the restaurant’s customers. Their website credits celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Celia Cruz, Frankie Ruiz, and others that have visited their restaurant.

Morro Castle

Photo by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Morro Castle is a small, family-owned restaurant that have been in business since 1966. According to the Miami New Times, “… family-owned Cuban cafeteria Morro Castle has been Hialeah’s source for good, affordable bistec de palomilla, tostones, and moro.”

Polo Norte

Photo by Angelo (CC by 4.0)

This restaurant has become a popular restaurant chain in South Florida. Known for their delicious Cuban pizzas, the original Polo Norte opened in Hialeah, before branching out to other locations across Miami. The restaurant offers a diverse menu of Cuban pizzas with different topics, Cuban sandwiches and paninis, and other entrée menus with Cuban flare.


Ibiley Uniforms

Ibiley Unforms is one of the major uniform retail stores for schools across Miami-Dade public schools. Visiting the Hialeah store in early August, one can find long lines of parents purchasing their children’s uniforms for the upcoming school year. Ibiley Uniforms was founded by a immigrant Cuban family living in Miami after escaping the Castro regime.


One of Hialeah’s most popular stores, the Valsan department store on W 4th Avenue has become a local shopping hub. Their commercials have become a mainstay on Spanish television through their funny commercials and its popular jingle.

Farmacia Cali

Farmacia Cali is a small Colombian pharmacy off of West 60th Street that offers over-the-counter medicines and ailments for customers.


To conclude, Hialeah is a fascinating city in the heart of Miami-Dade County. Often ridiculed and joked about, Hialeah is a working class community made up of Cuban exiles, immigrants, and hard-workers. Many Hialeans are proud of living in their city and wear it as a badge of honor. Despite the city’s faults, there is a special culture within the city as one of the country’s few Hispanic immigrant enclaves.

CITATIONS Hialeah. n.d. Web Site. 15 April 2021.

DataUSA. Hialeah, FL. n.d. Web Site. 20 April 2021.

Herring, Chloe. Miami Herald – Turns out Hialeah is actually the least diverse US city. 21 February 2017. Newspaper. 19 April 2021.

Lipscomb, Jessica. Why Is Hialeah Always Ranked the Worst City for Everything? 16 January 2019. Newspaper. 20 April 2021.

Miami Herald Archives. What did Hialeah used to look like? Here is a peek through the time machine. 4 November 2019. Web Site. 19 April 2021.

Miami New Times. Molina’s Ranch Restaurant. n.d. 23 April 2021.

Molina’s Ranch Restaurant. n.d. 23 April 2021.

Polo Norte. About Us. n.d. Web Site. 23 April 2021.

The City of Hialeah. Milander Park Recreation Center. n.d. Web site. 23 April 2021.

WalletHub. Best & Worst Cities for Recreation. 2 July 2019. Web Site. 20 April 2021.

—. Cities with the Best & Worst Public Transportation. 10 September 2019. Web Site. 19 April 2021.

Wikipedia. Hialeah, FL. n.d. 20 April 2021.

Angelo Gomez: Miami Service Project Spring 2021

Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez.  I’m nineteen years old and born here in Miami of Colombian descent. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism.  I am interning as a reporter for the South Florida Media Network at FIU.  I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I love to travel even though I don’t do it often enough. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer enthusiast.

For my Chicken Key Service Project, I volunteered with Professor John Bailly’s Finding Miami course for the Spring 2021 semester. It was a group of nearly fifteen FIU students from multiple courses.


I chose this specific volunteering opportunity because I love nature and especially, the ocean. So, when I was told about the opportunity, I knew that I wanted to visit Chicken Key and help clean up trash and debris that landed on the island from the ocean. Since the island is uninhabited, it is important to keep the island as clean as possible so the wildlife can live and grow safely within the bounds of their land. Despite not relating to my Journalism major, I am passionate about the environment and the preservation of nature, so naturally this was a topic I am interested in deeply.

I connected with this project on a deep level as I realized how much plastic and garbage were on the shores of the island brought in from the ocean. Seeing so many empty glass bottles and plastic objects among nature made me reconsider how much garbage I produce in my household and whether it would be better for the environment if I consumed less plastic and more reusable items. Also, walking and exploring the uninhabited island made me feel more connected to nature and to my surroundings. Seeing such a beautiful island untouched by humanity also made me appreciate the work that goes into ecological preservation and protecting wildlife. Since this island was minimally touched by human hands, there was a raw beauty and wilderness all around as we walked along the land and navigated through mangroves. There was no carved-out pathways or railings, but muddy terrain and sprawling mangrove branches across the scenery. The island felt entirely unexplored and hidden, which made me feel connected to the ancient Tequestas that used to navigate this land hundreds of years ago.

Photos by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)


On April 17th, I arrived at the Deering Estate at around 10 in the morning. As we prepared the canoes to head towards the island, the entire group organized in pairs to coordinate the mile-long trip to the island. There was a learning curve because it my first time ever using a canoe, and the trip was longer than expected. However, the views of the ocean and the island were spectacular as we slowly got closer to our destination. At nearly 11 a.m., we landed on the island and tied our canoes on the shore, finding a small campsite to leave our bags to begin working on the beach cleanup.

Photos by Angelo Gomez (CC by 4.0)

Over the next four hours, we walked around the island picking up garbage from littered across the floor and deep in the mangrove trees. Small items such as bottle caps, plastic utensils, and pens were littered across the uninhabited shore. Broken pieces of Styrofoam were spread out across the floor of the island along the shoreline. Beer bottles and flip flops were dug into the ground and barely noticeable.

Among the tiny pieces of garbage that lined the floor, larger pieces of garbage were scattered across the deeper parts of the lined. With Professor Bailly, we traversed deep into the mangrove trees towards the opposite end of the island as large pieces of trash trapped in there. There were items such as old mattresses, wooden planks, and toilet covers that were difficult to pull out.

After eating lunch and taking a brief swimming break at noon, we returned to continue rummaging for garbage and loading the canoes for the return trip. It was experience spending one last time swimming on the island and together as a class before the end of the semester.

It was nearly 2:30 in the afternoon once began our journey back to the Deering Estate. Each canoe was filled with large garbage bags filled with trash and buckets filled with empty glass bottles that creaked with every turn of the canoe.

Finally, the trip back to the island was much more difficult than the first journey in the morning. The wind picked up and the ocean currents pulled us in the opposite direction, and it took us twice as long to reach the Estate under the afternoon sun. Once we finally returned, we gather the entire collection of garbage together and threw it away at the dumpster, proud of the hard work we accomplished together.


To summarize, this entire service project was a very insightful experience. I saw with my own eyes how garbage from the outside world can still destroy the natural beauty of an uninhabited island. Its important to regulate and enforce proper waste management and trash disposal, to avoid garbage from South Beach, neighboring islands, and form ships to end up on the shores of Chicken Key and other nature preservations, especially when marine life are at risk. Everything in this project worked and I have no complaints about it.

This project was a culmination of the class’s central theme: to learn more about the history of our city and the importance of preserving the land which we live on. Miami is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse habitats such as the Everglades to the west and the mangroves near the shore. With the destruction of so much land since the beginning of the twentieth century, it is crucial to protect and preserve the remainder of our natural environment that made South Florida a wonder. It is crucial to never forget about the past and to honor our history , and to preserve the land that once existed long before us.

Photos by Anette Cruz (CC by 4.0)

Angelo Gomez: Miami as Text 2021


Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. I’m nineteen years old and I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer superfan. That’s about everything you could wish to know about me.

Downtown Miami as Text

“Subtle Nods”  by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Downtown Miami, January 29 2021

Commonly referred to as a “melting pot” of different nationalities, Miami is the intersection of different worlds. In this sunny metropolis, several different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities all come together to form a colorful painting on a city-wide canvas. From its indigenous roots to its colonial experiences, and then fast-forwarding to its inception in 1896, many different hands and feet have passed through our home, each group leaving its influence in this ever-growing cultural landscape.

Downtown Miami subtly nods at its long and complicated history, while proudly and boldly embracing the beauty of its diversity. Merely a few blocks away from Government Center lie remnants of horrors of slavery; a few blocks further ahead, stands the Overtown district, with its own unfortunate racial history and troubled past.

Beyond the shiny skyscrapers adorning Brickell’s skyline are clues scattered across reminding its own people of its rich past. A small memorial testament to Mary Brickell reminds us of the women that brought us to this day.  The towering indigenous warriors fire arrows to the sky above the same river where indigenous Tequestas roamed their land.

Yet, among skyscrapers and boat tours, merely plaques subtly nod to the importance of these landmarks at one point in history.

Behind the Liberty Tower, stands a piece from the Berlin Wall. Yet, underground rest the corpses of black slaves and African American workers that built up the city that never got to experience the promise of freedom for themselves. How does this make sense? It doesn’t, but few things in Miami make sense.

These subtle nods are pieces of a puzzle; a scavenger hunt map that allow us to reflect and piece together an appreciation of what came before to improve on what is to come.

Everglades as Text

“Legacy” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Everglades National Park, February 5 2021

A vibrant and buzzing ecosystem. As a small group of students carefully treaded the waters, nature warmly embraced its own. Miles of land stretched out beyond the eye could see. At the exit of the dome, the river grassland greeted us as it stretched out until the horizon line. Lying ahead, an entire world untouched. Untouched by humanity and development. A peaceful landscape. In that moment, I thought of every indigenous native, slave, and settler that stepped through these lands at some point or another in our history. For the Tequestas, the original founders of this beautiful landscape, we honor their legacy by preserving the land they owned and cared for. Carefully walking beside them, we honor the cypress trees, the waters, every plant, animal, and microscopic species that roam and own this territory, their territory. These lands have existed long before us. They will be around much long after me. We are just co-inhabitants of their world. In the grand scheme of things, we are just minor characters in an overarching narrative surrounding us.

South Beach as Text

“Distinctiveness” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at South Beach, February 19 2021

Sandwiched between the beach and the city, the walk along Ocean Drive was an inspiring sight of beautiful and unique architectural styles coming together. As the roadblocks opened the street for pedestrians and restaurants extended onto the road, the convergence of strangers along the famed Ocean Drive was a pleasant sight to see amid the coronavirus pandemic.

South Beach offered an eclectic mix of colorful buildings and innovative architecture and design. It offered a distinct blend of architectures such as Mediterranean-inspired architecture, modern MiMo architecture, and the iconic Deco style. These three styles blended to create an eye-popping and creative panorama. The contrast between the designs plays off each other and their distinctiveness are the center of South Beach’s creative spirit.

Walking through South Beach feels like a rewind through time, an appreciation for the innovative and creative spirit of man. As modern architecture favors geometrically shaped homes and neutral color palettes are the rave, bright neon colors light up the South Beach night sky. Bright yellow and pink and green hotels attract the eye with their bizarre and exuberant displays. These buildings could have been demolished to make room for oceanside skyscrapers. Heavy traffic could have crowded the street from pedestrians and closed the restaurants.

However, amid the humid and sunny Miami weather, we enjoyed a travel forward into the future and simultaneously walked through history.

Deering Estate as Text

“Time stands still” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Deering Estate, March 5 2021

Under the cool, quiet shade of the trees, we traveled along the nature preservation of the Deering Estate. As we journeyed through the same grounds that the tribal Tequestas, James Deering, and Charles Flagler once walked on, we experienced the feeling of traveling through time itself. We caught glimpses of our land in its original state, where time stands still, and the land remains intact and untouched. However, debris and ocean garbage line the deep mangrove shores. The decaying corpse of a small plane lies still. Hundreds of caves decorate the landscape. Mosquitoes own the land. The Tequesta “tree of life” is the center of it all.

A couple miles ahead, a Spanish-esque mansion and a preserved old town stood tall at the frontier of the Atlantic Ocean. As far as the eye could see, the ocean and the sky blended into one blue canvas as the sun stood high in the noon sky. Where a man-made row of palm trees lined up the blue sea, manatees floated and greeted us as we begun our journey.

As for the estate itself, I learnt a lot about James Deering. He was a complex man, one with many accomplishments but also many faults. Much like Henry Flagler and Carl Fisher, our city shares an equally beautiful and turbulent past. Much like Deering’s Spanish villa home, Miami offers a distinctively colorful blend of cultures and inspirations from across the globe.

Vizcaya as Text

“Exuberant” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Vizcaya, March 19 2021

Standing in Miami’s own luxurious Vizcaya mansion, it feels like being transported to a different world in the distant past. The same hedonistic desire that led the creation of Louis XIV’s grand Versailles palace in France also inspired Vizcaya mansion, a towering and shiny palace right in front of the ocean with colorful gardens and gorgeous views. Large rooms filled with artwork detail in the interior of the mansion. Large banquet halls and ballrooms were once home to lavish parties and exuberant events. The expensive decorations inside the mansion reflect a life of charm and plentiful spending. The colorful gardens are a treat with gardens, mazes, fountains, and statues.

Built in the middle of a up-and-coming, swampy and rural Miami, a vast party house invaded the scene. However, one must also remember the complicated past that Vizcaya represents. Vizcaya was built off the hands and labor of slaves or black workers, who worked under unpleasant conditions, to say the least. Vizcaya’s lavish lifestyle was not accessible to these folks, the poor and underrepresented communities that were often set aside and forgotten in history. Much like the rest of the monuments explored in this course, the memories and legacies of many are often neglected for the sake of the few, those rich and powerful, and often white.

To this day, Vizcaya remains a popular tourist destination as the city lives up to Deering’s complicated, but exuberant legacy. There is nothing better that can describe Miami’s culture, a city known for its beaches, parties, and rowdy night life.

Margulies as Text

“Life” by Angelo Gomez of FIU at Margulies, April 16 2021

Inside the Margulies Collection at The Warehouse nestled within Wynwood, I discovered a new world completely unknown to me. Roaming around the hallways and the exhibits, Martin Margulies’s collections of artworks dazzled the entire environment with attractive and though-provoking artworks. Each room presented its own offerings of artwork with unique messages and themes.

Listening to Martin Margulies, he was a very interesting man with a passion for artwork. In his collection, there was a large variety of contemporary artworks that were all unique and clever. Rather than traditional artwork, such as paintings on canvases or model sculptures, the artworks on display were wildly creative and abstract. Artworks were made from rocks, briefcases, and old canvases. An old truck was used for a project containing television screens and graffiti. Each project was fascinating to inspect, examine, and analyze. The combination of vastly different art styles made for a great experience as each room and section of the warehouse presented visually captivating pieces.

Learning about Margulies’ influence and effect on Miami’s art history was a fascinating part of the experience. Miami is known for its nightlife, beaches, and architecture, as well as being a hub for art. Wynwood is one of the best examples of that. Without Margulies’ contributions, Wynwood may have never developed at all. Now, Miami is a trendy hub for artwork and colorful personalities. Just like Vizcaya and James and Charles Deering, Miami continues to build upon their legacies as a fun and colorful city.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. For much of these artists, their wonky and unorthodox creations present beautiful messages and spoke to me deeply. Other works were simply fun to admire. Overall, this entire experience was breath-taking.

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