Imagine South Florida, in all it’s hot, sticky, sunshine-laden sunburned glory – filled with pastel colored houses and apartments to repel the UV rays, cruise ships, retirees, the oceanfront and an ever-growing melange of cultural communities. The Latin influence is strong there – in a way that gives the city a truly ethnic vibe that makes you feel like you are on a cultural immersion vacation – which this Narcissistic Anthropologist just loves!
A friend was telling me a popular phrase there is “I love Miami because it’s so close to the United States”. I am sure that in some way this was initially meant to be a complaint by one of the slow-to-adapt natives (of which there are few, btw…”natives”, that is), but I revel in the awesomeness of that designation. Miami truly has become its own cultural destination – whether you are recently immigrated looking for a taste of home or a local / tourist looking for an authentic cultural experience to hang on to in this dangling peninsula of transients and bronzed south-beach “beauties”.
And if you travel a bit away from the beach into midtown, you have the opportunity to go even further down the rabbit-hole. As the evening shade begins to cool down the pavement, you can stroll down blocks where the walls, sidewalks, and any municipal surface (including the bike racks, garbage cans) are covered in art and the air wafts through, lightly scented with hints of marijuana and Gucci Rush. It’s the only part of town where you can start off enjoying Latin-inspired tapas in a restaurant where the walls are filled head-to-toe with Shepard Fairey Murals, take a short stroll around an expansive outdoor courtyard that doubles as a painted wall gallery, purchase a book on street art sculptures, have a cocktail outdoors on the bleachers of a “takes all kinds” (including dogs) watering hole complete with a life-size Jenga set while sharing some smoke with another human who knows no strangers, go hear a live Cumbia / Electronic music performance and then end up eating grilled cheese at a food Truck with Gallagher (yes – I mean the American comedian from the 80s who wore suspenders and smashed watermelons).
Wynwood is like Brooklyn, West Hollywood and Miami made a test tube baby that consisted mostly of their “good” genes. And I for one am a new fan. It is a far cry from the Miami I knew as a teenager growing up in South Florida and I couldn’t be more pleased with the creative haven. As as far as I can tell, it has become a city to at least try out for a little while for both the cultural creatives and young , aspiring and acculturating bourgeois. I definitely encourage a visit on your way to your next cruise or after a day at the beach.
I would like to thank my friend Andy for giving me a heartfelt tour.
Here is a “photo walk” of my evening in Wynwood – starting at a nearby “quintessential” creative high-rise residence and then hitting the streets: