Letters

To Find the Real McCoy, Head South ... Way South
I am writing in response to Judy Cantor's article "Home for the Holidays" (January 21). May Ochun and all orichas bless them, but the days of the Sonora Matancera and Celio Gonzalez will never return to Cuban music, in Havana or Miami. Just as the days of Louis Armstrong's New Orleans passed long ago into the memory of Dixieland, musica tropical is dead in the entire Caribbean basin. (Although it's true some percussionists with toy drums keep dribbling on.) But there is still one place where musica tropical is boiled and brewed with real blood and real fire! Where? In the mysterious and faraway city of Montevideo, where candomble drums still shake the walls of some places past midnight on Saturdays. The sonoras of Montevideo consist of musicians who eat beef for breakfast! And during the final carnaval parade, 3000 orientales (as the Uruguayans call themselves) lug their huge and heavy candomble drums through Montevideo until the tops are colored red from bleeding hands. The Uruguayans, excuse me, the Orientales, have combined Cuban and Puerto Rican music with their own African-inspired musical traditions. Well, if you can't be in Montevideo on Saturday nights, the next best place for real musica tropical would be on Sunday morning in any Pentecostal church in Puerto Rico!

Montevideo is not only home to today's most fiery and two-fisted musica tropical. It is also the mother of tango! The universally known "La Cumparsita" was composed by the Uruguayan architecture student Gerardo Matos Rodriguez in Montevideo in 1917. Unless you can recite this fact, Uruguayan immigration officers may not let you in the country!

The Uruguayan tango is more masculine and less compromising than the Argentine tango. It retains more of the original formula; a tough man and a defiant woman must dance it!

Juan Maxwell
Miami Beach

Miami's a Churning Urn of Burning Ethnicity
Thank you, Judy Cantor and New Times for continuously digging out and showing the hidden gold of Miami's cultural and music scene. I'm from Miami but live in New York City. I sing in two Cuban music groups, and I get tired of hearing people up here dismiss South Florida as just a disco playground for New Yorkers.

Thank you for showing the diverse Cuban, Colombian, Venezualan, Latin American, African-American, Haitian, and Caribbean Miami. The culture is expressed and created in the city's music, dance, food, and fiesta.

I'm homesick.
Jose Conde
New York City

A Nod to the Negative: Jen Is Mighty Fishy to This Reader
I was impressed enough by Jen Karetnick's review of Big Fish Mayaimi ("Something Fishy," January 14) to congratulate her on an amazing accomplishment: Her lack of taste as a food critic has at last been surpassed by her lack of writing ability.

I was a little nervous when I saw she was reviewing Big Fish, a little gem tucked away on the Miami River that's a favorite of mine. I felt like an art professor about to read Pauly Shore's critique of Rembrandt. Not to be unkind to Mr. Shore; I'm sure he would have more sense than to stretch a metaphor so far that he winds up saying things like "... and the menus, those all-important character references, are shaped and colored like tongues that have suffered a nuclear accident."

Aside from the baffling writing, I was amazed that Jen was unable to appreciate the atmosphere of Big Fish. She writes that if you sit outside, you might have a nice meal if you can ignore the Metrorail tracks to the left, the drawbridge to the right, the seagulls, the passing boats, and the airplanes. Amazing. I imagine she would enjoy dining al fresco next to the Pyramids of Giza only if she were able to ignore all the sun, sand, and those three big, pointy triangles.

The food review is another thing. She switches back and forth so often I'm left dizzy. First we have the heartwarmingly naive Jen somehow determining that "the Spanish connection is evident on both the regular menu and the specials blackboard." (Really? What gave it away? Was it the paella? The churrasco? The brazo gitano? Nothing escapes your notice!)

Then we have the amazingly (pseudo-) sophisticated food critique. Jen declares things such as "the honey-mustard dressing that moistened the dish was too sweet, failing to harmonize properly with the mozzarella." Yeah.

Note that she mentions, a bit angrily, that "waiters continue to remove wineglasses that aren't empty when they bring a new round." I imagine her review was written after a few too many glasses at Big Fish. Jen, remember next time to wait awhile before trying to sit down at the computer to write a critique. An ounce an hour should be your quota if I remember correctly. If you feel compelled to mix "reduction" and "harmonize" with a metaphor of your own creation, all in the same sentence, you'll know that you haven't waited long enough.

Lastly, it's a shame that she concludes (rather condescendingly): "Big Fish's food might some day become a draw in itself." She mentions that she really liked the fish sandwich, the snapper, the squid, rice pilaf, swordfish, churrasco, deserts, and wine. Am I missing something? Why would someone wax enthusiastic about the great food, only to finish with what looks like a mean-spirited barb?

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