A Cuban balsero is rescued in the Florida Straits by a cruise ship. Sounds like a typical story. But this tale is different. The rafter is quite musical. He is invited to perform on the ship and does so for weeks until he disembarks to seek asylum in California. Eventually he ends up in Miami and opens a tiny pizza parlor, Freddy's, on SW Sixth Street and Twelfth Avenue. Little does he realize his neighbors are a bunch of bohemian artists hellbent on making their community a hotbed of art and amusement.
So far Freddy's neighbors have thrown a tribute to Babalu Aye, the Santería deity of the downtrodden, and a lively open-studio evening to welcome another pair of artists to their 'hood. They've also hosted a performance piece by José Reyes, who lived in a storefront window for three days.
This Friday, inspired by Freddy's regular weekly jams, which range from the crooning of Mexican rancheras to Sting, Little Havana cultural organization Artemis Performance Network and the Southwest Sixth Street studio dubbed lab6 present Café Neuralgia. A lighthearted lampoon of the local nightspot Café Nostalgia, this café will feature live music by Freddy and his Crew, poetry by Nestor Diaz de Villegas, photographs by Miami Herald lensman Pedro Portal, and a digital performance journal by artists Vivian Marthell and Carlos Suarez de Jesus. “It's that whole añoranza (yearning) thing, that Cuban nostalgia thing; we decided to take a dig at that,” says Suarez de Jesus.
In addition to these wild antics, the event will be a swan song of sorts for Marthell and Suarez de Jesus. This September the couple, founders of lab6 and instrumental in creating a Little Havana art scene, are taking a one-year position at The Working Classroom, a street arts conservatory in Albuquerque, New Mexico. But they vow to return periodically to participate in various art happenings. In the meantime, Portal will safeguard their space.
And of course the pizza will always call. “The first place where I'm going to stop when I come back is Freddy's,” says Suarez de Jesus. “The pizza is excellent. It's a starving artist's place to eat.”