Miami: un memento mori para ti

Miami froze me with her sass, me dio tremendo erizo as the chills me corrieron por adentro y encima. She was defiant, super exigente, always cooking the Caribbean … and those endearing spills, swoons, and shakes; sometimes, in rare moments, she could even be tipa hipócrita, a necessary evil in the art of sinvergüenza–surviving three deaths before her final. In life, Miami was a vision who lived in a perpetual state of absence from home; she was here and she was there. Her vulnerability manifested in lapses between English fragments and the Spanish of being in exile. Bailando, luchando, resolviendo, y revolviendo. In living, death may be experienced as a force that pulls our most (and sometimes least) beloveds into an unfamiliar place–the home of the sanctified who we love to mourn in and through our nostalgia. We muse their transience from the vivacity of life to the most enigmatic of states–the enveloping silence of death. Although Miami now endures in videos, relics, and memories, she will ultimately remain mysterious because she will never be real–experienced only in the magic of our imaginations and through the remaining lights of our filtered images.

Photograph: Cristina Victor 

Photograph: Cristina Victor 

The first time I saw her I was overwhelmed, me ahogue en un vaso de agua; nevertheless, I was enchanted as she carried me into a seemingly hypnotic state. Reaching through the curtain that separated her self from me, those manicured fingers carried me into a spell as they grabbed for my heart. Initially I thought you were just pintándome mono, pero que va, you were more than an entertaining diversion. And after some haste resistance, I devoted you time. I heard your manteca when it crackled, grease permeating the nose and greedy tongue of my mind. You reflected me and said “I give it to you, it’s yours. I share.” I still taste the bitterness of your oranges and feel the kick of your ajo; the sugar in tu cafecito con espumita still awakens me. Miami, you have un tenacity de madre

She and I share the gloom of one who belongs nowhere, and pleasure of friends who can be present anywhere at nearly any moment. Cuando las lagrimas me vienen because I miss Miami so, they fall softly in solitude and with loving sincerity; sometimes I laugh at her in anxious chuckles and an occasional displaced snicker. But something else happens in between my tears and projected laughter, a feeling I can only compare to a time back in the day when I entered the (not-so-fun) house of mirrors in the Youth Fair on 107th Avenue. Me dio tremenda pena–because I embarrass very easily y me salió la vergüenza–my shame gave me a near ¡¡patatun!! to the heart. Am I her? Is she me? Is Miami just them or are they really she and I? From her resistant, yet tender heart to yours and mine, she shows us who we can be and at the same time who we are not. Miami, I imagine you would have found solace in the pain of a beloved who once shared: “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”

Miami’s memory is here honored in you and me. She was so indecipherable, although ingredients criollas may certainly be found here and there. Has she finally arrived in a place of true domesticity beyond the living? In mourning Miami I find peace through envisioning that she no longer searches for home, nor must she cook, dance, defy, or teach–unless she wants to, of course. Perhaps the hungry bring their tiqui-tiquis with them in death . . . insatiable desires that call us to artful exile chefs? Miami may still continue to tempt our cravings for criollo cooking. Her lessons are relinquished celebrations conveyed in varied measurements of uncertainty; the in/operative exile who mourns in the loose to feel whole again. 

Miami once invited me for arroz con pollo y me morí, que rico–pero como dice mi abuela, “Lo rico se encuentra en la metamorfosis adentro de la olla de presión.” Like our sensitive exile hearts, the kind that derail my impulse for calores y sudores, we can be overly consuming and projecting. I believe the language of the heart has the ability to transcend the language of the mind (and certainly the speak of the guts, hands, hips, and tongue). For las gringas who never quite understood her, but were her students of estyle, to the cubanitas who thought she was burlándose de nosotras: tomate un Heineken (or una copa de vinito, if your taste prefers), cállate, and always, always “pay attention.” Aquí no pasa nada.

… de Jackie Valle

This essay was written in response to MIAMI, a work by Cristina Victor, and originally appeared in DISSOLVE's first zine, Debt, published in May 2016.

Cristina Victor is an interdisciplinary, West Coast based Cuban hyphen American artist born and raised in the transience capital that is Miami. She's a nomad, nostalgia junkie, vexillologist, latin@ media sponge, costurera bruja.
Jackie Valle is a recent MA graduate of the History and Theory of Contemporary Art program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work examines how art at the intersections of smell and vision can point toward an understanding of subtle, yet powerful politics in contemporary visual culture. Before moving to the Bay Area to pursue graduate studies, she worked in arts and education institutions in the U.S. East Coast.