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?

I find Big Fish to be a great little place -- very eccentric and picturesque. The food is usually excellent. What Jen doesn't mention is really the most important draw: the food is fresh. That's its big appeal. Sometimes dishes are a little underdone or overdone. Maybe there's not enough breading or too much. But the seafood is always fresh and very simply prepared.

Perhaps the problem isn't with Big Fish. Jen may have failed to harmonize properly with her role as audience member.

Thomas Cermait

Now the Good News: Jen Is a Heckuva Lot Better Than the Others
Bring back Jen Karetnick! These other food critics are really bad. Victoria Pesce Elliott: What a pretentious name! Her writing style is embarrassingly reminiscent of my ninth-grade efforts, when my teacher would say, "Lili, your style is creative, but avoid redundancy." Elliott actually said some drinks tasted like Slurpees, then continued with: "I'm not saying they weren't good." She also implied she regularly writes food criticism. Surely that can't be true.

Find some real food critics. I've read other papers, and they do exist.
Lili Chambers

If New Times Is Sensationalist Garbage, This Reader Is Taking Us for All We're Worth

Regarding Robert Andrew Powell's article "Pandering for Fun and Profit" (January 14): Okay, let's just suppose Alan Diaz sat in a hotel room with an attractive prostitute, (ahem, escort) and paid her $120 to tell her story. After all, if anything else happened, we wouldn't know. (Don't ask, don't tell.)

What exactly is wrong with Sonya's enterprise? You have consenting adults fulfilling a basic law of economics: supply and demand. Most corporations today are hiring younger and younger executives to work backbreaking hours with little or no time for a personal life (i.e., the demands of a relationship). For these men an escort provides the physical relief without complications.

Sonya is furnishing financial independence for herself and employment for women who need it. Being poor and honest is no longer an option; remember welfare reform? No one cares whether you can pay the bills. And no one cares how you earn the money to pay them.

Why the sensationalist, lurid cover and slanted article? Why not explore the reasons there are so few lucrative options for intelligent, talented women? That would be too tame, wouldn't it? Less advertising dollars when fewer people pick up New Times. Just what is New Times selling? Damn it, New Times is pandering -- to the lowest common denominator.

Ines DePaul

New Times and StreetSmarts Team to Help the Homeless
Leave it to New Times to discover interesting and unique things happening in our community! Kathy Glasgow's article on StreetSmarts ("Brother, Can You Spare a Byline?" January 7) is one of them. I was not aware of similar papers in other cities. I am aware that every person on the street is there for a unique reason and if that person is to ever get off the street, he or she needs help. I know if I were homeless, I would probably become involved in something entrepreneurial like selling oranges, flowers, or newspapers. I find it difficult to understand leaders who dismiss potential solutions for their clients. Like so many problems, homelessness has more than one possible solution. StreetSmarts should be given a chance to serve members of the homeless community who respond to it.

Steve Hagen

Krome Is No Ellis Island
I read Jacob Bernstein's article about Krome concentration camp ("Cleaning Up Krome," December 24) with special interest. The policies and conditions he describes didn't exist, to my knowledge, at Ellis Island. That New York City immigration center represents a chapter in U.S. history of which we should be proud. I was appalled that Mr. Dhine had to fight just for the right to light Hanukkah candles. Bravo to those who are gallantly trying to change things. And just two words to Mr. Stubbs: promises, promises.

Alan Gittelson
Miami Beach

Is DeFede a Pit Bull Only Natacha and Boris Could Love?
Sometimes it's hard to tell. Is it Jim DeFede's purpose to report the facts or attack other people? In a recent story, "The Junket Queen" (December 24), he unloads on one of his favorite targets: Miami-Dade Commissioner Natacha Seijas Millan.

DeFede is a great reporter, but what good does his rage toward people in power do for the cause of truth?

In Millan's case DeFede was successful in making her sound manipulative, confused, and defensive about her trips. But he gave us very little beyond that.

I guess the real questions here are these: Was fairness DeFede's mandate when he wrote this story? Or was it to attack someone who voted against the human rights ordinance?

Natacha's vote on that issue was wrong, but it shouldn't be the impetus for DeFede to go after her.

I guess we're all human.
Antonio de Velasco

Or Is He a Nattering Nabob of Negativity?
Why didn't New Times reporter Jim DeFede highlight any positive actions of Ms. Millan in his article? Why does the media always focus on trying to embarrass public figures? Does New Times think that is what the public wants?

Bill Bell
Revere, Massachusetts


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