Radical Chicano

Two weeks in this town convinced L.A. comedy group Culture Clash that Miami needs a "mango colonic." They're right.

We're hearing things that people will talk about but no one will really say. We have no political ties with anyone here, no agenda," observed Richard Montoya as the group's rental car made its way down the highway that January afternoon. The trio's position as outsiders peering in, Culture Clash members agreed, would afford them a better chance of reflecting back at Miami an accurate depiction of the area's diverse, disconnected population.

Then again, airing a community's unspoken tensions involves certain hazards. "We want to say what we want," added Montoya, "and get the hell out of here."

"When the City of Miami was incorporated in 1896, there were no Mr. Gonzalezes," explained Dorothy Fields, founder of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida. Siguenza, Montoya, and Salinas sat listening like polite schoolboys, taking notes and videotaping as Fields lectured Culture Clash about the history of the Bahamian and African-American communities in the Grove, and about their important role in the founding of Miami.

Back in the car for the drive home to the hotel in Miami Beach, the group reverted to their roles as socially conscious class clowns. They rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio, tuned to HOT 105 (WHQT-FM 105.1). "The Jheri Kurl station," Siguenza purred, then began throwing out ideas for the performance.

"We've got to go out looking for Cubans," he declared. "So far we've interviewed a lot of rich Jewish people. I'd like to see a Santeria ritual. They might sacrifice a Chicano."

"We should stage the final scene of Apocalypse Now, but substitute Castro for Brando," Salinas suggested.

Meanwhile, the traffic-flattened cat they'd been using as a marker was nowhere in sight, and the guys had to admit they were lost. "Have you noticed," asked Montoya, eyes bugging, "that there are no white people in this neighborhood? And...we...are...in...a...rental...car?

Get that map down, boy, get it down!" he screamed in a Southern drawl, reaching up front to slap Siguenza's arm.

When the causeway to the Beach finally came into sight, Siguenza cupped his hands to his mouth. "Atenci centsn, Miami. Fidel Castro is still in power! Atenci centsn, Miami. Fidel Castro is still in power!"

Montoya pounded out the beat of a son on his leg, and the three Clashers rapped out bilingual verses of their new song:

Cuando Fidel se muere en su cama caribe*a
Calle Ocho esta bailando, todo el mundo esta cantando
Move over, comunista -- aqui viene Armani Exchange
Move over, comunista -- aqui viene Miami Herald
Move over, comunista -- aqui viene Mas Canosa
Move over, comunista -- aqui viene Gloria Estefan and su jet ski

(When Fidel dies in his Caribbean bed Calle Ocho is dancing, the whole world is singing

Move over, communist, here comes Armani Exchange
Move over, communist, here comes the Miami Herald
Move over, communist, here comes Mas Canosa
Move over, communist, here comes Gloria Estefan and her jet ski)

"I think Spanish people are naaaaasty," Montoya smirked, imitating a fifteen-year-old black girl he'd met at Cutler Ridge High School the day before.

"Give me twenty Castros, I give you one Duvalier. Twenty Castros. One Duvalier," boomed Siguenza from the front, speaking with a Haitian accent.

"And in the words of Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes: 'Oh. My. God.'" This they shouted in unison as the car pulled up in front of the Carlton Hotel on Collins Avenue.

"What are we doing here?" Richard Montoya had asked as he walked into the lobby of the hotel a few nights before.

As usual, the group had a dinner to attend that evening. Ric Salinas was sick in his room, Herbert Siguenza had gone to fetch the video camera, and Montoya was feeling a little like Dorothy in Oz. His mind was on Los Angeles, where people were still bracing for aftershocks from the earthquake, which occurred after the actors arrived in Miami. Between concerned calls to friends and family, Montoya was busy worrying about tapings of the group's TV show, of which he, Salinas, and Siguenza are executive producers, as well as writers and stars. Meanwhile, Culture Clash was being kept to a hectic schedule, shuttling between hospitals, county commission meetings, and the homes of an ex-Cotton Club dancer and members of what the Miami Light directors characterized as the "wealthy gay leisure class." Accustomed to spending his spare time organizing boycotts and demonstrating for migrant workers' rights, Montoya seemed a little confused by, and rather bored with, Miami's social structure. So far, he said, he found the city politically conservative and racially segregated. He stood staring with a frown at the row of elderly guests socializing on patio chairs outside the hotel.

Montoya's godfather was Cesar Chavez. His father, Jose Montoya, is a respected Chicano poet. He was brought up in Sacramento, surrounded by what he describes as the art and activism of the Chicano struggle.

"On the West Coast, the people who founded the Chicano movement are still teaching at universities today A that whole school of thought about what it means to be Chicano and why we must preserve and maintain and document our culture," he said. "It's not really Mexican and it's not wholly American. It's a mixture, we call it Chicano, and politically they've always been way farther ahead of the game than Puerto Ricans or Cubans. It's still on fire, and there's a whole resurgence of Chicanoism on the campuses of the Southwest. Theirs is a point of view of Chicano politics that's totally different from that of other Latins A a different world, a different history."

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