The background noise of small talk from athletes finishing the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run was interrupted by the roaring sound of motors as a group of about 15 bikers swarmed El Vato into Mary Brickell Village.
The guys of the Cartel Baggers and Peterson's Harley-Davidson were blasting David Guetta's "Beautiful People" and revving their engines as they pulled up to the curb and parked their shiny red, white, and black Hogs. The badasses had arrived, and they wanted to make an entrance.
The sound of their motors caused me to nearly spill my $13 Cheech and Chong margarita all over myself. After parking their bikes, they slowly made their way inside the bar for a couple of beers.
Thursday night is Bike Night at El Vato (1010 S. Miami Ave., Miami), just one of the stops of the weekly joyride. Two athletic dudes in their early 30s were finishing their dinner as the bikers pulled in.
"Tequila" is what Guido said he loved most about Mexico.
"But ask him -- he's been there a few times," the 33-year-old clean-shaven Cuban-American, sporting khaki cargo shorts and an orange T-shirt, said as he pointed toward his friend, 32-year-old JJ, who was intensely watching the Miami Heat take on the Milwaukee Bucks during game three of the playoffs.
"The people are nice," JJ said. "Everything lets loose."
Asked if he thought the laid-back attitude had something to do with tequila, JJ replied with a confused look: "I don't know. Maybe."
Meanwhile, some bikers were drinking beer and smoking cigars nearby. "I don't go there often -- only every other weekend," said Luis Dorta, a slender 24-year-old Cartel Bagger with a killer beard.
Twenty-six-year-old Elisael Prieto, proudly wearing a black Harley-Davidson polo, leaned on a pole. He goes to El Vato for "the ladies and beer."
"And the donkey shows," Dorta added.
"Yeah, donkey shows," Dorta reiterated.
Clearly, these guys weren't Mexican. What were their thoughts on Cinco de Mayo?
"More like Drinko de Mayo," Prieto said. "It's a commercial holiday."
"It's an excuse to drink," Dorta added as he puffed away on his cigar.
A few feet from these guys was a group of bikers who appeared to be in their 40s.
Asked what he likes about Mexico, a bald man sporting a black motorcycle tee said, "Nothing. I don't like it. I don't wanna get killed by the cartels. Tell those vatos to get outta there."
"It's funny you mention vatos," I said. "You do know we are at El Vato?"
"Yeah, that's the point," he said before walking away.
Alex Hernandez, a freshly shaven biker wearing a tricolored Harley polo, said he was as old as I wanted him to be. Then he spoke about Mexico. "I like the culture. It's very rich in traditions, but it's just too dangerous."
A few minutes later, the bearded bald guy who had walked away returned and interrupted our conversation. "You're still talking?" he asked Hernandez.
"Yeah, she's a good listener," Hernandez responded.
"I have someone you're gonna wanna talk to," he told me. "You wanna talk to Carlos Ponce? He's here. You know, the actor?"
"Yeah, Carlos Ponce is not here," I said in disbelief.
"Yeah, he is. Follow me," he said.
Sure enough, I walked inside and found the blue-eyed, salt-and-pepper-haired hottie sitting with his boys, drinking a beer, and chowing down on some tacos.
"Hey, Carlos, she didn't believe you were here."
I knew Carlos Ponce was a lot of things (singer, actor, the best thing to come out of Puerto Rico), but little did I know that the boricua who played the overly sexual yoga instructor in the 2009 comedy Couples Retreat was a hard-core biker.
"I lived in Mexico for six months," he said. "Mexico, al nivel gastronómico [at the gastronomic level], it's impressive... The people are friendly."
As for Cinco de Mayo, he added, "For me, if there is any excuse to party, I'm there."
Right back at ya, Carlos.
I took a picture of him, and he asked to check it out.
"Do you approve?" I asked, showing it to him.
"It looks good," he said.
you do it does.
As I made my way outside, a group of five runners wearing green Baptist Health System T-shirts was celebrating crossing the Corporate Run finish line with celebratory tequila shots.
"Tequila." "Cilantro." "Guacamole is the best!" "Los taquitos son deliciosos!" shouted the runners as they proudly professed their love of Mexico.
Clearly, none of them was Mexican.
"We're all Mexican because of tequila!" said Rachel (or Nuestra Patrón, as the only guy in the group, Luis, named her).
"I'm Cuban, but I lived in California, so that makes me Mexican by default," said Monica, a brunette with Angelina Jolie lips.
"We're not here for Cinco de Mayo, though," she added, right before slamming another round of tequila with her fellow runners. "But it's never too early for Cinco de Mayo."
In the words of the most interesting man in the world: "Stay thirsty, my friends."
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