When I was at my writer’s residency in a small Southern town for my MFA, I felt a little out of place, being the only woman with thick black hair and olive skin within a ten mile radius. But it’s not all about how you look. I could have pale skin, green eyes and blond hair like my mother, and I would be no less Cuban. It’s more about who you are and where you are. I was in a small town in South Carolina, a town so small it has no airport and a downtown that’s a few blocks. The only other Hispanic I saw in two weeks was the maid at the hotel. When you’re a Cuban refugee from Miami, sometimes there’s no other place in the U.S. that ever really feels like home. Everywhere else you feel like a misplaced, misunderstood minority. Sometimes, I would chill out with a little help from my buds (pun intended and shout out to the Beatles) and listen to music from back home like Otto Von Schirach–his very Miami, Miami bass, Hialeah, street and sometimes hilariously raunchy or chuzmo songs–Tipo Tropical, Salpica, Supermeng– and DJ sets in Cubanish (Cuban Spanish) and English.
For a moment, I felt the flavor of Miami running through my veins in the middle of a field of magnolias, and I felt proud to be from Miami. I grew up in Westchester, which is as my aunt from New Jersey called it, basically a Cuban ghetto, but it’s a nice one. All my friends were Cuban-American. So, the Cuban-American culture of Miami is deeply ingrained in who I am.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the American, Southern culture. I grew up listening to country music since my dad was a huge fan of country singers like Willie Nelson (also a huge advocate of Cannabis). I listened to The Allman Brothers, Johny Cash, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline and other Southern classics on my road trip through the South that also made me–an American at heart– feel at home. And my fellow poets and professors were all very friendly advocates of the medicinal herb, as are most creatives. One night we went walking to the cemetery near the campus, smoked out, and listened to Joy Division. Nothing like music and trees to unite a white trans kid from Alabama, a mixed black lesbian with green eyes from Virginia, and a white butch from Tennessee. And nothing like music and trees to help cure the homesick blues. Sometimes it takes being far from home to really appreciate it, and, though I was the different one, I felt I should have pride in the 305, and pride in my culture like Otto.
He was one of the headlining DJs at the Miami Cannabis Walk and Concert, an event where Miami’s eclectic tropical cultures proudly shined, uniting for a high, spirited cause–supporting research about the medical benefits of Cannabis.
Last Friday evening in Wynwood, recreational connoisseurs of the herb, people who use marijuana to treat with diseases and conditions, and businesses who want to cash in on the crop, all came to walk for the week. The route looped from 22rd street of NW 2nd Ave to 24th street of NW 5th Ave and back.
About 1,500 people attended. Some participants included marijuana edible companies, food truck and merchandise vendors, flyer companies, insurance companies, Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers of Florida, vape shops, and NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) of South Florida.
One thing is clear, Miami’s vibrant cultures united for the cause in style!
Check out a photo gallery of the event:
After the walk, the DJ’s played sets. Otto played “Tipo Tropica” (made my night). He also played his tribute to another popular local Cuban-American DJ Laz: “Si tu pasas por mi Casa/ y to vez a mi mujer/tu le dices que estoy en Hialeah/ trabajando en factoria / por culpa de Fidel.” Although I think it takes a Cuban exile from Miami to really “get” those lines, everyone can enjoy the music, even a yogi. One was definitely feeling this yoga loving, raw vegan super bass DJ at the event. A guy dressed in all black performed an impressive yoga routine in the middle of the dance floor throughout Otto’s set, perfect for the tropical musico who wears his gold third eye like a badge of honor. Now, I need one of those.
It was great to see such a great turnout to support a plant whose benefits are slowly being recognized in the states. Florida will soon make the step to legalization because I believe over time justice prevails. I have no doubt about it. And the friends I met who use it to treat conditions like epilepsy should never have to feel afraid about obtaining medicine. Check out the @miamicannabiswalk to see how you might get involved in the future.
Thanks to Irian Cordoba for the photography. Check out her Instagram @Abranel_productions