I’ve come a long way with Miami. I was born here but I grew up in New York City where I spent my formative years in classrooms that resembled more of a United Nations summit than a typical American middle school. There was an Iraqi, Israeli, Iranian, Russian, French, Spanish, Sudanese, one kid from Singapore, two from New Jersey, and me, a first generation Cuban American kid, all sharing the same eighth grade classroom. I grew up hearing stories from dozens of countries in multiple languages. We had Latin as part of the curriculum, we had school visits to art museums and obscure theatres in the village where Stanley Tucci gave staged readings. My artistic sensibilities and comfort around multiple cultures cried to me that I belonged in New York! New York was the place for me.
When my father moved us to Miami the summer before I turned sixteen, I felt plucked from the multicultural surroundings that had become embedded into the fabric of my personal development. Even if Miami were home to hundreds of thousands of people hailing from the same heritage as I. What could Miami possibly offer me that I didn’t already have in New York?
It turns out, a lot more than my limited thinking allowed me back in those days. After stints in Los Angeles, New York, and even Spain, I found myself living once again in Miami. Now grown-up with a family of my own, I have quickly learned Miami has evolved into something much more than the tanned, scantily clad inhabitants who eat mangoes and sway their curvy hips to hypnotic salsa and rhythmic late night club beats. For the record: that still exists and honestly, what’s wrong with that? It’s just one of the many layers this magical city reveals to its visitors. But as an artist, this city has become a haven. A place where ideas are free to thrive. Take risks. Fail. Rise. This city will embrace you. If you allow it to.
As a writer and though my work with various cultural programs in the city, I have been around some of the best literary minds in town (and many from out of town). Literature in South Florida is alive and thriving. Flocks of artists, writers and thought leaders are coming down here to explore new levels of their creativity that may be locked in more established places like New York, LA, or Paris.
Miami is a city of many passions, none the least of which is its literature, art and culture.
Here’s my ten second Miami sound off:
The Betsy-South Beach’s Literary Programming (All Year)
O’Miami (Poetry Festival in April-programs All Year)
Miami Book Fair International (November – Note: 3rd largest book fair in the world)
Art Basel Miami (Around 50 thousand collectors, art dealers, artists, curators, and art enthusiasts attend annually)
Books and Books (considered one of the best independent book stores in the US. Author visits year round)
Wynwood District, Downtown, Midtown, Coral Gables (all have chic restaurants, bars, arts organizations and little festivals that pop up practically every weekend.)
I am proud to say, Miami and I are in love. She has given me the very multicultural atmosphere I lost so many years ago in my middle school classroom.