Local Girl Makes Good

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I was browsing through the New Times’ Best of Miami 2009 issue, when I came across an interesting category: Best Local Girl Makes Good.  The award went to a Debbie Attias, a former rapper who is now biking across the country to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. A worthy feat no doubt, but I recently learned of a Miami girl who’s ‘made good’ on a much larger stage.  Dr. Mireya Mayor is an anthropologist and one of the star explorers in the History Channel’s new series Expedition Africa.

After reading The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon a few weeks ago, I began reading about other anthropologists and adventurers. As if by design, Expedition Africa premiered right at the height of my own obsession. The series features a team of explorers retracing the steps of Henry Morton Stanley, the reporter who braved the wilds of Africa in search of Dr. David Livingstone, who dissapeared while looking for the source of the Nile.

From the very first episode, I suspected that Dr. Mayor was a Miamian. No amount of doctorate degrees and months hacking through god-forsaken jungles can mask a Miami accent. Not to mention the name Mireya, a seriously old-school Cuban name. I checked out her bio online and sure enough, not only was she the daughter of Cuban immigrants and raised in Miami, but she had also been a Miami Dolphins cheerleader! Como??

After finding her calling for anthropology almost by chance as a student at UM, she went on to conduct some serious field work.

Mireya, then only 22, applied for her first grant. Though a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader and model, she received the grant and went on to spend that summer in the remote jungles of Guyana, one of the most unexplored regions of the world at that time. The following year she journeyed to the wilds of Madagascar into areas so remote, that she often found herself surrounded by local villagers who had never seen a foreigner before her arrival. Mireya completed the first ever long-term and genetic studies of two of the most critically endangered primates in the world, Perrier’s sifaka and the Silky sifaka.

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Along with becoming the first female wildlife correspondent on the “Ultimate Explorer” series on the National Geographic channel, which got her a couple of Emmy nods, she also convinced the leaders of Madagascar to designate a lemur habitat a national park.  Her list of accomplishments goes on and on.  

If you have any doubt as to whether she is the real deal or not, just tune in to the show and watch her wrangle a cobra like she was born doing it. Not too shabby for a Cubanita cheerleader from Miami.

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~ by Joel on June 16, 2009.

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