FTAA: Survival Guides
Miami is known for its combustible mix of people from all points on the sociopolitical spectrum. At Home Depot the wealthy former somocista bumps into the Sandinista commander who appropriated his Managua mansion. The retired Medellín cocaine kingpin lives in the same Key Biscayne condo as the attorney general who once pursued him; they eye each other warily across the pool. Successive waves of Haitian tyrants settle into gated communities in West Kendall. Batista loyalists and former Castro confidants sip cafecitos at Versailles. Busted cops are paroled from prison and make peace with the drug dealers they ripped off. Indicted politicians run for office and win handily. In a weird sort of way, Miami is a very tolerant place.
Now comes the ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, attracting its own volatile mix of government officials, corporate titans, determined activists, and battle-hardened cops. Very Miami. Very good potential for a week-long festival of diversity, and possibly a bit of irrational exuberance. Which would be welcome in some quarters. After all, we haven't seen a good street melee since Elian blew town.
With that in mind, and in an effort to help our out-of-town guests enjoy Miami to the fullest, we've put together modest survival guides for the FTAA trade delegates, visiting anarchists, selfless police officers, and earnest protesters of conscience. You'll all be mixing it up in the days ahead, and we want to do our part to keep it real.
1. Visiting Anarchists
Miami, unlike Seattle, doesn't have much of a homegrown anarchist community, so chances are you're a visitor. You'll find the rules here are different from Boulder or Washington Square Park or wherever your last squat was. In the hopes of making your stay pleasurable and productive, here are a few tips:
Bring your own patchouli -- its hard to find here.
Also bring your own vegan food. No matter how proud you are of your personal commitment to diversity, you won't enjoy the "ethnic" food in Miami, unless you don't mind three kinds of pork in one sandwich.
Dont bring your own weed. Miami already has a healthy free trade going with all the drug-producing countries of the Western hemisphere. Youll find that prices are low and quality is excellent.
Don't let the sunshine get you too happy. Just because November in Miami is a slice of paradise, remember you're not here to enjoy yourself.
If youre trying to pick up a cute Cuban, dont bother with your favorite Che Guevara passages. That leftist shtick that works so well on East Coast undergrads? Not so much for refugees from communist regimes.
If you want to get into the negotiations, pretend to be a bike messenger with an important missive for a trade minister. Besides, you probably are a bike messenger.
Wear layers. The Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center is chilly.
If youre handy with a Molotov cocktail, contact local sports agent Drew Rosenhaus. You could probably beat out the Dolphins starting QB.
While youre in town, take the time to talk to a few people from Haiti, Bolivia, or Colombia. They probably know a few things about anarchy you dont.
Fight the power. Throw a water balloon.
2. Offical Delegates
Welcome to Miami! We know youll be working hard trying to push your countrys hapless agenda. We also know youre not going to want to waste all your time skulking around the Inter-Con. And so we offer a few tips that should prove useful whether youre talking tariffs or trash. First tip: No matter how much Miami looks, feels, and smells like home, there are a few disconcerting differences.
Bring your own maid. Service in Miami sucks.
Be prepared for surly airport personnel and hotel staff, and remember: You cant have your waiter jailed.
There will be many protesters. They will be loud and obnoxious. Resist the urge to order your bodyguards to open fire.
Around town you may run into one or more members of the regime you helped to overthrow. Resist the urge to order your bodyguards to open fire.
If the irritation of it all gets to be too much, dont forget your most potent weapon: diplomatic immunity, especially on South Beach.
Which brings us to...
Pick up a posse. Look around for the Central American and Caribbean delegates. Odds are they wont have anything better to do.
Feel free to ignore the Miami Beach noise ordinance. (Diplomatic immunity!) Have your chauffeur pump up the bass as you roll down Ocean Drive.
To show youre a real baller, ditch the suit and tie for an NBA jersey. But forget the Miami Heat, unless you want to get laughed at.
Dropping the name of your countrys president will get you nowhere with South Beach doormen. Instead utter these magic words: Michael Capponi.
When wooing local beauties, forget your negotiating skills. A bottle of Cristal is still the quickest way to reach an agreement on this side of the security perimeter.
3. Local Police
What the well-prepared cop needs to know: Keep in mind this is not poseur-grunge Seattle or starchy D.C. This is Miami. Weve got an image thats all our own -- palm trees, bikinis, riots. From the 1980 McDuffie rumpus to the Elian Gonzalez brouhaha, no ones had more experience beating back a crowd than the cops of Greater Miami. And given that this is the town where Scarface and Miami Vice were made, the rest of the country might be excused for expecting a little more, you know, action when watching the FTAA unfold on TV. It would be a shame to disappoint. So when the camera swings your way, remember: We have a reputation to uphold. Here are some helpful tips on:
How to get away with it: In order to maintain sympathy in the court of public opinion, designate a couple of officers to crumple to the ground on cue, clutch their faces, and scream: My eyes! My eyes!
How to administer a beatdown without leaving a mark: Wear gloves, strike the head above the hairline, or aim for the stomach/solar plexus region. Stay away from hitting the face, which could leave marks that would last well through arraignment. If you or a partner has a shield, hold it up and strike the subject through the shield (diffuses the blow, decreases visible bruising). And dont forget: The diligent cop always covers his nametag.
How to understand what theyll be chanting: Do some background reading. We recommend Howard Zinns A Peoples History of the United States and anything by Noam Chomsky.
How to withstand the odor of thousands of young punks who apparently dont believe in bathing: A healthy dab of Vicks VapoRub under the nose will do the trick.
How to pick up an anarchist chick: During a lull in the action you might spy a saucy firebrand who catches your fancy. Why not bring the state and its radicals closer to understanding? Mention the above-referenced books, say youre a vegetarian, and smile. Opposites often attract.
Be alert. Older guy in a suit passed out on the sidewalk: trade rep with diplomatic immunity. Escort him back to the Inter-Con. Young guy in Subhumans T-shirt passed out on the sidewalk: threat to national security. Book him.
Avoid back pain. Remember to lift from the legs while hauling protesters to the transport truck.
Your greatest tool, of course, is Miamis new parade-and-protest law, which prohibits materials or substances that are capable of being thrown or projected. Pretty much gives you carte blanche.
4. Diffident Dissidents
No matter how many times you spout off about the FTAA slashing wages, trashing the environment, and zapping social services, those guys in black are going to get all the attention. Here are a few ways to stand out in the fog of tear gas and be heard over the crash of shattering glass.
Im Not with Stupid: Let everyone know that youre not just a bunch of hyped-up kids out to destroy property. Print T-shirts that set you apart. Possible slogans: Take This Job and Ship It; Debt Happens; Lifes a Bitch and Then You Privatize; My Other Car Is a Burro; or My Trade Minister Went to Miami and All I Got was This Lousy Devalued Peso.
The television challenge: When complicated subject meets attention-deficit medium, create visual depictions of FTAAs downsides. As always, youll be lucky to get 30 seconds on network TV, so keep it simple but powerful. Something along these lines: White plantation owner cracks bullwhip over crouching, fearful black children.
Instant sympathy: Even if you have to pay them, there's nothing like senior citizens to bestow credibility to your cause. Make sure you have a squad of placard-waving geezers ready to move on a moment's notice to the next live broadcast.
Pamphlets -- thick, dense pamphlets. We know you love them, but we have a better idea: club flyers. At least people might take a look before trashing them.
Stay far, far away from Ralph Nader.
5. Downtown Workers
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.