Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rasta, Papa'

Miami has been called a melting pot. I like to think of it as an Ajiaco.

Ajiaco is a Cuban/Colombian/Latin American vegetable and meat soup, choc-full-o viandas (a Spanish word for a variety of different vegetables we Cuban kids grew up eating, like yucca, boniato, potatoes. Vianda is one of those words heard as children, spoken in the background while watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island, that made us wonder, "what the heck is a vianda?")

Miami is like a big pot full of exotic vegetables; hot, spicy at times, but always full of flavor.

A few days ago, I had lunch at my new favorite Lebanese lunch spot, Shawarma. Shawarma is owned by a South American family, migrants to SA from the middle east at some point in their family history. The restaurant is run by the family, and the owner's children help cook and attend the register.
The children speak perfect English. Their Spanish, like mine, is not as refined, but inteligible. They make a mean Shawarma (kind of like a Greek Gyro, but for some reason I like the Shawarma more). They also represent what Miami is, and continues to evolve into.

My new Latino/Lebanese friends prepare their food while listening to a group from Puerto Rico called Cultura Profetica, a roots-Reggae band. The video-album playing is a tribute concert to Bob Marley. The guy singing the lead is a Boricua who sounds, almost identically (but not in a comical or unnatural way) like Bob Marley.

So as this Cuban-American sat in a Lebanese restaurant owned by a South American family with Americanized kids, listening to a Puerto-Rican group performing in "Queen's English" excellent renditions of Marley tunes in the background, it dawned on me that Miami is a special place.

NY and Chicago are great cities, and are melting pots of many of these same cultures. LA is.... a melting pot. San Francisco is a beautiful city, also a melting pot. But I believe only Miami should have the honor of being dubbed, an Ajiaco.

Miami hasn't always been an Ajiaco. It was a flavorless place for many years, at least for me. But lately, it's been a pretty cool place to be. Flavor is coming back. Life is not as plastic and superficial as it once was; so stayed and uptight. There is color (and not those cheesy fake pastels; real color). There is vibrancy.

There is a sense of place; of culture being redefined into something of substance.

The Ajiaco has not finished cooking. It needs a little more time. But it's getting there.

"I'll have the 'mojito chicken'." - My friend Katie Kerestes,' Americana', ordering at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, pronouncing the 'j' as a 'j' instead of an 'h', and not smiling while she did it.
"I figure marriage is kind of like Miami: it's hot and stormy, and occasionally a little dangerous... but if it's really so awful, why is there still so much traffic?" - Gwynn Marcus, Miami Rhapsody


Anonymous said...

... Ay Lobe Llu Mayami!!!

Berkeley Rican said...

beautifully said. now will "they" listen? who is "they" you may ask?
those who don't know how good viandas and bacalao taste like. did you know my second sermon in miami was titled Viandas and Bacalao religion? I have the sermon on audio if you want to listen to it.

Marquito said...

Viandas and bacalao... only you Boriqua!

Val Prieto said...


Great freaken post, man.


Marquito said...

Thanks brother.

Anonymous said...

I see Miami as a water reclamation plant. Crap comes in from everywhere and then the government with taxpayer’s money has to try to turn it into something usable. It can never be used for consumption but at least it’s OK to use as fertilizer.

Marquito said...

I used to call Florida the drain to the septic tank, with everything flowing down to rest in Miami... used to.