As we drove down Okeechobee Road toward Club Rancho Grande last Saturday, my friend started recalling the last time she was there: She got stuck in traffic for an hour, she remembered, because a gunshot victim was being airlifted from the rancho next door. That was Rancho Gaspar, site of more than one act of violence (a body was found on the rural road leading to the club in 2001), which has since closed.
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What is a rancho? It seems to be a Hialeah thing, a nostalgic throwback to Cuba. Basically it is an outdoor barn-type arrangement with food, drink, dancing, and sometimes even pony rides. After turning off of Okeechobee onto a rutted dirt, we passed mataderos offering lechon-slaughtering services, pens of goats and geese, and at least one cow. In spite of a thorough frisking at the door, Club Rancho Grande seemed to attract a non-violent -- though scantily-dressed -- crowd.
Gnawing on rabo encendido, trying desperately not to think about the fact that I seemed to be eating 100 percent beef fat (it tasted good), I spent the rest of the evening watching the people who didn't grow up in the Midwest dance salsa and bachata. One kind, elderly gentlemen took pity on me and kindly guided me to the dance floor, where I proceeded to step on his toes for the course of an entire song. It was a fun night. --Emily Witt