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Drag performer Andro Gin.
Drag performer Andro Gin.

Wynwood Pride, Facing Criticism, Pitches Itself as the Next Step in Miami's Queer Renaissance

“There’s literally no place like Miami.”

Sitting back on the couch in her private downtown studio, New Times' best drag performer of 2019, Queef Latina, reflects on the rebirth of LGBTQ culture that Miami has experienced in the past few years. She’s just returned from a trip to Cuba, where she led a group of young Cuban-Americans in connecting and working with queer and trans Cubans. Now she fills her studio with sounds of lively boleros.

“The queer scene has really evolved and taken a life of its own,” she says. “I think a lot of people have brought it upon themselves and made it a priority where if they see there’s something missing or something that’s not being represented, they take the opportunity to make an event that really fills that need in the community.” No one knows this better than Queef herself, who created Wigwood in 2017 as South Florida’s premier queer festival.

That same spirit of self-determination inspired a group of young local creatives to organize the inaugural Wynwood Pride, set to take over the Wynwood Marketplace and environs Friday, June 21, through Sunday, June 23. The event, which is expected to draw thousands of attendees, came under fire last week by critics who complained for-profit organizers don't have the community's real interests in mind. Organizers argue they are giving substantial money to important causes.

Anna Margarita Albelo, a lesbian filmmaker and a chief organizer of the festival, is a Miami native who experienced firsthand the rise of the city’s gay and lesbian culture in the '80s and '90s before its postmillennium slump.

“Sometimes you do have to distinguish yourself and do something like this in your community,” she says, echoing a sentiment similar to Queef Latina’s. “We have that space [at the Wynwood Marketplace] for the weekend... and with all that space, you have space to include a lot of people.”

Queef Latina — who herself will perform at the festival as well as lead a group of performers in Wigwood’s Invasion of the festival Saturday — believes the creation of a festival like Wynwood Pride has been a long time coming. “I’m very glad that there’s finally an event that caters to our interests, especially in terms of programming, because the interests of actual Miamians are very different from the interests of tourists or people who live on South Beach.”

With the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots looming at the end of the month, this June has been among the most important Pride Months in recent memory. Pride in South Florida has seen a number of incarnations in the decades since that fateful night, the most memorable of which were Dade and Broward’s joint celebrations that began in 1977 as politically charged protests in Coconut Grove against antigay legislation championed by the singer and political activist Anita Bryant. In 2008, Miami Beach Pride became the area's de facto celebration for LGBTQ locals, and just last year, Hialeah celebrated its inaugural Pride in Hialeah Park. Still, the city of Miami proper has been sorely lacking a Pride celebration in June for nearly two decades.

With help from local event producer Swarm and the Wynwood Business Improvement District, Wynwood Pride is putting Miami back on the National Pride Month calendar through a weekend of musical performances, drag shows, parties, and community outreach events. It's an impressive lineup, especially for a Pride festival in its inaugural year.

José Atencio, one of the festival’s lead organizers, believes there’s no better time than the 50th anniversary of Stonewall to bring a new and unique Pride celebration to South Florida: “Our community is much more close-knit than it was a year or two ago," Atencio says, "and we want to share that with people in a way that's welcoming.”

This renewed sense of community is indeed a recent phenomenon. Albelo recalls the disjointed nature of Miami’s wider LGBTQ community prior to the queer movement’s arrival in the 2000s, with each bar or party catered to one type (or stereotype) of gay or lesbian person. This “fragmentation within the community,” as co-organizer Jor-El Garcia calls it, is antithetical to the queer movement’s inclusive nature and has prevented South Florida’s LGBTQ community from truly uniting for decades.

It can be attributed to a number of things: a generational gap that hampered younger queer people from claiming space in their own community; remnants of culturally inherent homophobia in Latino residents across the city; and, oftentimes, simply a lack of determined locals who wanted to see and create something new.

“The Latino community has a big problem with homophobia and identity,” Albelo says, “and it’s still something that’s superimportant for us to address. It's not just about the L or the G or the B or the T or the young or the old; it’s about us connecting all the dots... It's intersectional, and all of us need to continue to manifest and protest and demand and advance.”

Kat Wilderness
Kat Wilderness

South Florida's LGBTQ community was split, however, when organizations such as SAVE, Unity Coalition, Gay8 Festival, the Aqua Foundation Pride Fort Lauderdale, and Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride aired concerns about Wynwood Pride's finances. They argue that Swarm is using Pride as a moneymaking gimmick rather than what it has been historically: a nonprofit celebration of queer resilience in the face of discrimination and hatred.

"It's really appropriating our culture, appropriating our strife, and trying to make lots of money from it, and that's not what Prides are about," SAVE executive director Tony Lima told New Times . "Most Prides, if not all Prides across the country and around the world, are set up to be fundraisers for services and for work focused on the LGBTQ community. They're not moneymaking agents."

Albelo insists Swarm will not profit from Wynwood Pride, whose proceeds will go toward a newly created nonprofit, Wynwood Pride Inc. (The organization was created months after Wynwood Pride began advertising.) Organizers also partnered with three nonprofits — Pridelines, Survivors’ Pathway, and Astraea — that will receive a minimum of $2,500 in donations from Wynwood Pride, as well as mentions on its website and space to set up booths at the event. Adjacent to the main festival space will be a Community Village that will host 20 nonprofits at zero cost to them.

Atencio emphasizes that the events and activations composing Wynwood Pride aren't all new ideas. His goal, he says, is to produce a reconstructed, improved version of traditional Pride celebrations.

Wynwood Pride’s biggest headliner is Brazilian drag superstar Pabllo Vittar, flanked by names both big and small such as Cuban musician Albita (complete with a full band) and longtime ally and reggaetonera Ivy Queen. The fact that the lineup is composed almost entirely of queer artists of color is no mistake either.

“Miami is mostly people of color,” Garcia says, “so we knew that had to be at the forefront.”

Adds Albelo: “So many people are gonna see so many different types of representation, and that’s the best thing that we can hope for.”

The organizers of Wynwood Pride are hopeful for the future of not only their festival but also LGBTQ life in Miami. “We hope to keep that tradition of the last 50 years alive,” Atencio says, “and to create a more progressive, inclusive, intersectional, and intergenerational next 50 years for everyone.”

Correction: This article was amended to remove a quote presented out of context.

Staff writer Brittany Shammas contributed to this report.

Wynwood Pride. 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, June 21; noon to 3 a.m. Saturday, June 22; and noon to 10 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at the Wynwood Marketplace, 2250 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-461-2700; wynwoodpride.com. Admission is free. Additional ticket options cost $25 to $95 plus fees via eventbrite.com.

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