BY CARLOS SUAREZ DE JESUS
During October, Miami-Dade Transit jovially celebrates the spirit of Columbus, sending forth a caravan of curb-hugging tin galleons offering three-hour Hispanic Heritage Tours every Saturday of the month. Unlike the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, though, this fleet is air conditioned and fitted with dashboard statues of Saint Gilligan to ward off flat tires, rice and bean fallout, and stowaway malt-liquored street zombies.
And oh the sites one might see! Stops include the Freedom Tower, the Elián Gonzalez House, Domino Park, and Cuban Memorial Boulevard. As a Cuban-American familiar with these environs, the promise of singing "Kumbaya" with a busload of strangers celebrating my culture crests over me like a blissful wave.
Gleefully, I think, Here is a chance to navigate the thicket of bongo-banging, guayabera-wearing, anti-Castro hex-hurling stereotypes that can make a Little Havana bus ride seem ominous, only enhanced by PC commentary from specially trained, ethnically sensitive Miami-Dade Transit employees. "Azucar!" as Celia Cruz would say.
Fondly recalling the generous gifts I received as a child at the Freedom Tower: canned peanut butter, powdered milk, and federal cheddar. I thought of a fairly bedecked Calle Ocho during election season, every inch plastered with images of my leering Latin leaders. Then before I could say: "Cheesier than Liberace's jockstrap," I was yanked from my reverie by M-DTA's mention in the tour brochure of "practitioners of Santeria" who "leave ritual sacrifices of chicken bones" at the foot of a ceiba tree on Cuban Memorial Boulevard.
Come to think of it, little buddy Elián aside, what of my brethren? South and Central Americans, who not only ride buses here but contribute to our nation every day? The baggage of representing all things Hispanic is a little too scary to bear alone. Hey, Mr. Busman, it sounds like a good idea, but I'll take a pass on this ride.
Tours leave at 9:00, 9:30, and 10:00 a.m. from the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call 305-884-7567. -- Carlos Alvarez de Jesus
Ellie Schneiderman is one busy woman. As founder of the South Florida Art Center (now ArtCenter/South Florida) in 1980s Miami Beach and its executive director for ten years, she brought a spark back to once-bustling and then-barren Lincoln Road, inadvertently paving the way for plenty of tourists, locals, and Starbucks outlets. Then she moved south to Coral Way, where in 1996 she established Miami Art Works, putting artist studios and exhibition space in a failing shopping mall. Just four years after that, Schneiderman trekked further south to Homestead. There she and partner I. Stanley Levine created ArtSouth, a three-and-a-half acre artists' colony, where teaching, working, and learning goes on. Emerging and established artists also exhibit their work there on a regular basis. So is it a surprise that Schneiderman, a successful artist herself, hasn't shown her own work during the last eight years? That all changes tonight at 5:00 when a reception kicks off a display of her newest clay creations. The show runs through Wednesday, November 10, at ArtSouth's ClaySpace Gallery, 240 N. Krome Ave. Admission is free. Call 305-247-9406. -- Nina Korman
The Beer Season
Fall means a Bavarian bash
While celebrating the 1810 nuptials of their Crown Prince Ludwig, Bavarians inadvertently began the autumn tradition now known as Oktoberfest. A lot of guys will tell you their wives drove them to the bottle but in Ludwig's case, 194 years, a dancing mistress, and millions of drinking buddies later, it seems more excuse than reason ... but a damn fun one. German immigrants carried over the tradition with all the important accoutrements: oompah bands, lederhosen, sausages, sauerkraut, and large-bosomed blondes in tight dirndls. Most importantly they brought their drinking habits, which all honorary Bavarian-Americans can emulate at Fritz & Franz Bierhaus (60 Merrick Way, Coral Gables) during their Oktoberfest celebration. Expect the plaza to be converted into a giant beer garden. The Edelweiss Express and Alpenland Trio are among the live entertainment. Hours are 11:00 a.m. to midnight today, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 9:00 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Call 305-774-1883. -- Margaret Griffis
It is pink and green and worn all over -- at least it will be very soon. Flecked with flowers, the brightly colored paisley silk scarf, a limited-edition designed by preppy fashion icon Lilly Pulitzer, was created to raise awareness about breast cancer and to drum up funds for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, which will receive 85 percent of net proceeds from sales. But where and how to wear this altruistic accessory? Circling your neck, wrapped around your waist, or jauntily tied to a ponytail are just a few of the options. Learn many more today from 2:00 to 5:00 when representatives from Self, W, and Jane magazines will be on the first level at Bloomingdale's (8778 SW 136th St.), offering scarf-wearing tips, information about breast cancer, pink drinks, and tasty edibles. A girly Daisy Rock electric guitar will be the centerpiece of a silent auction in which you can also participate. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call 888-889-9037. -- Nina Korman