Chasing the Rainbow Family: Are They Hippies or Hobos?

For most of the year, 22-year-old Denise Puente lives in a house with her parents and does medical billing for a doctor in Coral Gables. She likes taking pictures and hula hooping on the beach.

But every February, she runs off to the Rainbow Gathering in Ocala National Forest to live in a tent for weeks, without bathrooms, money, or cell phone service -- even renaming herself "Picture" while she's there.

People at the Gathering sleep in tents, on mats, or the forest floor. There is a barter economy to ensure currency has no value, but staples like food and water are given to whomever may need them, as are pot and cigarettes. The goal is to create a peaceful community where everyone contributes to communal well-being.

To some, the Rainbow Family is just a bunch of freeloading hobos. To others, they're inspirational. "It's beautiful," said Puente. "It's a way to water the seed the hippies planted in the '60s."

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Miami New Times staff