The Wynwood Dream - The South Beach nightmare.
Wynwood is an area of Miami that thrives artistically. It has a history, for me like no other, in regards to an art district but I'm not here to tell you about that history, the internet is flooded with that information, Google on. My mission statement is to inform you on how the artist in Miami, not all, but the local artist with no ties to corporate America, the minority artist who are shunned by the neighborhood they help build up.
Wynwood was officially founded in 2003 and Wynwood Walls came about in 2009. Many artist were involved and help developed not just the neighborhood but the idea of a grand artistic neighborhood that'll rival anything we've ever experience. Sure Wikipedia is going to name a bunch of rich people and artist that are more familiar to us but it doesn't mention the small businesses and local artist who through social networking and persistence help popularize the big picture. For many years prior to 2017, artist from all over the world were allowed to express themselves in this friendly neighborhood with it's assortment of art galleries, bars, clubs, art walks and entertainment, that is until corporate America came in and gentrified the neighborhood and violated the rights of the artist and entertainers that use to fill the streets utilizing their first Amendment, their freedom of expression. Back in 2016 I participated in the art walk during Basel in Wynwood. There was entertainers in the streets, singers on every corner, food trucks all around, and artist peddling art to passerby's. I don't see none of that now. What strikes me is the restrictions that the police, city and the code enforcers place on the very people who partook in the effort to popularize the Wynwood dream when twenty years ago the police and the city of Miami never cared about that neighborhood. There was no school, pool or park in Wynwood back then. In fact there was economic failure at the hands of the city. Twenty years before that Wynwood was a rundown neighborhood flooded with drug dealers and faced many of the problems most urban areas faced and was nearly completely destroyed by riots in 1988. The neighborhood has came along way but don't think that the city of Miami cared one bit about it as oppose to their precious beach. They only came to help after residents made the attempt and succeeded at making it a place where art could thrive. When the city saw the progress made, then they united with corporate America to move in and take over raising rent for those who lived in the neighborhood for generations only to replace their homes with art related structures. Gentrification of course, ousting a lot of the people who help make Wynwood what it is today. As for the local artist, I can empathize. Why can't I post up on a corner and express myself as an artist or entertainer? I believe their ultimate goal is to make it Wynwood like South Beach which caters to the tourist.
So what's wrong with catering to tourist?
Nothing, most might speculate but I see things differently. South beach has been paradise for people vacationing for generations but there's somethings that I see that I don't like or agree with. I am a homeless man in a very complicated situation but I am also optimistic, positive and always motivated. I am very aware of my surroundings and what I see is what most people are not aware of. I don't know how many restaurants or fine diners there are on South Beach but I do know how many black waiters and waitresses there are on South Beach....NONE!. In fact you'll barely even see any natural American born citizen working as a server. And don't get me wrong, they have jobs on the beach but it's washing dishes and or anything else in the back where they can't be seen. Open your eyes and see that the majority of American born Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and even American born Caucasians are homeless people on the streets of South Beach. Why is this? Most businesses on South beach are own by people who are not American in nature. What I mean by this is that they have no respect for our culture, they can care less about our customs and holidays which ironically makes sense. Why would they? Why would they care about American holidays for instance and (no pun intended) why would a German, Italian, someone from Belize, Paraguay etc... care about Valentine's day when it's an American holiday? It's something they don't celebrate. Valentine's day is just an example to say that they value the opportunity but don't respect it. They hire their own kind to work their businesses and rather hire someone illegally under the table than to hire an American who would pay taxes. Now please, I'm not speaking generally, I don't put this on every business but like I said look around. If your in South beach or plan to visit, ask your server where they are from.
So what does Wynwood and South Beach have in common? Not too much yet. You see corporate American could never really get a grasp on South Beach. Ever wonder why there's no Wendy's, Denny's or Pizza Hut etc.. on South Beach. Do I really need to answer that question for you? I hope you get the point. For a long time the mom and pop businesses on South beach have maintained ownership of their land and very few have sold their land to corporate America. Personally I don't see anything wrong with that, but of course, I don't think anyone needs a Walmart on South Beach. It' would only destroy businesses and opportunities. If you see CVS and Walgreens on every other block, well that's because they rent that space, they will never own it.
Now for the point at hand. The Wynwood take over is what ultimately makes Wynwood and SOBE very different. You can't express yourself as an artist on South Beach either. You see all those green card holders or unnatural citizens selling bracelets all around the beach with their table at their fixed allotted locations? It's a monopoly. They have fixed the opportunity for you to be able to sell, the law applied only caters to a selected few as long as it ain't an American minority that was born in America. This is not an opinion, open your eyes and see it for yourself.
Now comes the question, how many black or American born Caucasians do you see in Wynwood? I'm not going to answer that question, seeing is believing. I'm not trying to stir the pot or attempt to make my opinions, facts. How many local artist and entertainers that pay taxes, do you see in Wynwood selling anything that don't work for a corporate American entity?
Just that you know, the majority of people you'll see in Wynwood strolling about are AMERICANS that were born in AMERICA. Yeah, of course you see tourist but I assure you the city of SOUTH BEACH hate it. It's taking money out of their jurisdiction. More shocking to me is that most tourist don't even know about WYNWOOD. Why? because their hotels reservations are on the beach for the most part and it's the duty of that hotel to make sure the tourist stay on the beach.
If you didn't know, Miami has more Mayors than most countries have combined. With that is a competition to drive tourist to their part of town to engage in the local economics. Locals on South beach want to oust all American workers and even it's illegals to make way for casinos to turn it into a Vegas like city. But who cares, I don't care about SOBE, it doesn't care about me and those I see sleeping in the streets. They won't hire me, not as a waiter or let me express myself as an artist. I have to rent or buy a gallery to do so, so the minority artist can never flourish in an environment made to violate the rights that one is not aware of.
When the local artist began renting warehouses in Wynwood back in the early 2000's, the warehouse owners welcomed them with open arms. When corporate American moved in, the owners raised the rent to make the locals artist leave and pave the way for corporate and elite galleries. I was devastated. Meanwhile Fendi and Gucci and stores like that began sprouting around Wynwood which only hires people with accents to work at their locations. Once again, this is not my opinion, open your eyes and take a look for yourself. I don't want Wynwood to be like SOBE though it's looking like it's transforming into it because if it does than you'll will never see a American working there unless they own a business there and they most likely be American born which means they will only hire their own kind or illegals.
I am experiencing what I am going through in the streets because I choose to. It's like Cory Booker, the former Mayor of Newark, NJ living in the projects while he was Mayor with his family to be able to live it in order to come up with a solution to the problems he encounters and witnesses. I am not hungry, I am not poor. I am actually doing very good in life. I am in a position to help others less fortunate. I run a website and movement called TOESLAM and my mission statement is to empower artist so that they in turn can empower their community. Please go to TOESLAM.com and join the movement to save Wynwood and places like it.
© 2022 Felix J Hernandez