When I first saw this linked on The Miami New Times’ website, I thought it was pretty entertaining that they seemed to be a bit offended at how much this video stabs at the heart of our so-called “Magic City.” While I did agree with their remark about the likeliness of the woman being tied and gagged in North Miami over Little Havana, I feel that the rest of the video is spot on. Now, this isn’t to say that I hate Miami all the time. I’ve built an on-going love/hate dichotomy with this town since my birth over at Hialeah Hospital back in 1984. See, I’m a native. A real native. Not one of these NYC transplants that came down in the last 5-10 years trading in the years of snow and sleet for a bit of sand and sea. Or one of the Spring Breakers who come to take over South Beach with fake IDs, trying to chug as many Four Lokos as they can while they create what can only be called the most ridiculous traffic on the I-395 ever.
No, see I’m a real native. Native as they come. I am a first generation Hispanic woman whose family came here illegally because they had no other real options left in their homeland. I am a product of Miami Dade County Public schools, having attended 2 elementary schools (Charles R. Hadley and Marjory Stoneman Douglas), 2 middle schools (Ruben Dario and Paul Bell), and luckily just 1 high school (G. Holmes Braddock – where our motto became “We succeed because we smoke weed!”); not to mention also having attended the 3 major Miami institutes of “higher learning” – MDC Kendall, FIU South, and good ol’ overpriced but still pretty great University of Miami – Go Canes!. I took field trips to the Miami Seaquarium and the Miami Science Museum as a kid, visited the Everglades with my school’s Environmental Club, and every few years went on the bus north to a roller-coaster ready amusement park. I participate in beach clean ups every year and there’s at least one or two BBQ/Picnic days with friends during those perfect weather days.
I have been through dozens of hurricanes, including The Big One (a.k.a. 1992’s Hurricane Andrew) and countless other tropical storms, tropical waves, tropical depressions, and other forms of generally obnoxious weather that mix just enough rain, heat, wind, and humidity to put every hairstylist in Miami on a hefty steady income. I have had my crappy duplex in Sweetwater flooded countless times and battled roaches the size of your palm. I have become a cortadito AND colada afficionado, always accompanying this godly Cuban nectar with a nice, buttery tostada. I have visited individuals in all our major hospitals (Baptist and Mercy probably being my favorites, with Kendall Regional being my leas favorite chop shop). I spent my life doing groceries at Publix on the regular, Whole Foods when I was feelin’ fancy, Sedanos and Winn Dixie when things were a little rough, and Food Star when the penny jar was just that low.
I know what botanicas are, where to get the best Fritanga, where to find spare tires on the cheap, which pharmacies won’t ask you for an actual prescription, why you should avoid Bird Road from November to January and 107th Avenue during the month of March. I know why I only bother blowdrying my hair during the “dry season” and the fact that we really only have two seasons here: humid and not AS humid. I know that the people who live on South Beach, unless they grew up on the mainland, know nothing about nothing else in Miami BESIDES South Beach. I’ve been to private island parties off the Arthur Godfrey and i’ve had smokes with friends under the bridges at Dadeland North Station. I know that nothing is EVER on time in Miami, and that that is a big reason as to why I’m never on time either. I know that turning on my left turn blinker will only cause the people in my left lane to hurry up so they don’t have to let me pass. I spent my early adolescence wearing Chuck Taylors like everyone else, stage diving during shows at the Chili Pepper, skanking up a storm at ska shows at Kaffe Krystal, standing with my elbows out during hardcore shows at the Alley, and having a goddamn grand old time in the backyards of all the kids who had cool enough parents to host shows on their own.I still wear my Chucks, but now the shows are fewer and farther between, not to mention a whole lot more expensive.
What I’m trying to get at is that Miami is NOT just plastic surgery and fake tans and real tans and snotty bitches in big SUVs with even bigger sunglasses so they begin to resemble the annoying pugs and chihuahuas they carry in their purses. Miami is NOT just Kendall G boys (or Little Havana thugs, or any other teenage males in our suburban neighborhoods) trying to act hard, working to make their cars faster and louder, starting stupid fights during college night in the Grove, popping their collars to look like damn fools. Miami is NOT owned by the guys in suits coming out of their Brickell offices, sneering at the homeless on the Metro Mover while he makes his way to some overpriced joint in Mary Brickell Village. Miami is NOT the property of the hordes of idiots in too tight dresses that pay $300+ for bottle service at Space, or the 18-21 hipster crowd in the extra tacky outfits hoping someone will notice them when in actuality no one wants to have to even look at them. Miami is NOT just the underage chongas looking for attention at Westchester or Dolphin or even International Mall, and it’s NOT just the perfect looking dog walking couples doing brunch in the East Grove.
Honestly, there is no typical Miami experience because it’s all just one crazy conglomeration of natives and tourists, the very poor and the exceptionally rich, coming in all colors, shapes, and sizes. And it’s because of this that I love and hate it all so much. The video touches on some of the biggest flaws of this city. The traffic, for one, is horrendous. For those living without a car in this town, it is truly a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, your blood pressure must be nice and steady. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to get anywhere, and especially not even remotely on time, and if you need to get back past midnight, you might as well just camp out where you’re at because that simply won’t be happening (and let’s not get in to taking public trans during the summer rains).
When you grow up here, and really grow up here (not leave at a young age or do a ton of traveling in your youth), you just gain a certain perspective (some may call it a slight disdain, others perhaps a conflicted appreciation) of this town. Now, a 26 year veteran of the sometimes affectionately named “Penis of the USA”, I have learned to have quite a fondness for this place that I usually can’t stand. Basically, I make the best of it. As such, I have been embarking as of late on several excursions throughout this great and crazy city, visiting places I may have normally never set foot in, attending events I once thought too pretentious or stuffy or obnoxious, and just trying to get a final dose of dear old Northen Cuba.
In the coming months, I hope to be leaving this place behind me, even if only for a little while. Not because I hate it anymore, but because I know that the world is a vast place with so much to offer and so much to learn from. I know that in my travels, i’ll encounter new challenges and interesting people and have all kinds of adventures, safe or otherwise. But Miami will always be home base. A part of me will always want to throw up a 3-0-5 sign during a group photo or crave pastelitos de guayaba or long for the days when Spanish wasn’t a complete rarity. Here’s to Miami. A few more months with you until our divorce papers are finalized, but you know – i’ll always come back home to you.