A Wynwood Photo Essay by Ralph Ventura

{A Guest Article by Photographer and Writer Ralph Ventura.}

by Ralph Ventura

Urban, hip, gritty, gentrified, artsy, blue-collar, new, and decaying. Wynwood is a place that defies description and one that presents us with a paradox.

Wynwood had it’s origins in the great Puerto Rican migration of the 1950’s. People came here in droves seeking a better life for themselves and their families, seeking a better tomorrow. Like immigrants before them, they founded a neighborhood that met their needs and reflected their character, all within the limited resources available to them. Through the years, Wynwood remained an island of genuineness in a city that was constantly being remade. It was an area apart.

As with many areas where rents are low and warehouse space plentiful, Wynwood eventually attracted artists. The artists in turn attracted the galleries, which in turn attracted collectors, dealers, restaurants, bars and speculators, all in search of their own tomorrow. Where once much of the neighborhood stood as an example of urban decay, it is now an example of “urban-chic”. The hipsters and the yuppies (can we still use “yuppie” in the 21st Century?) abound. If you look carefully enough, you’ll be just as likely to see young moms carefully cradling their infants as college kids carefully cradling their vintage 1980 Canon A-1s (you know, the one from the Winter Olympic Games?). Of course, this is all you’ll see as long as you stay on the main drags.

Venture just a little bit east or west of Miami Avenue or Second Avenue and you’ll encounter another Wynwood, one where the locals still live. La Boricua Restaurant, La Perla Bar, Guanabacoa Market and many single family houses, duplexes and courtyard apartments reveal a Wynwood that is very urban but not at all “chic”. Not much has changed, here. The locals live and love much as they have for fifty years, each in search of their slice of America, each hoping for their own better tomorrow for themselves and their children.

So, what to make of Wynwood? Well, that leads us to the paradox. For all its recent strides, Wynwood still is an example of urban decay. Many structures are boarded up; many that aren’t are in very poor states of repair nonetheless. Fix it, clean it up, paint it, . . . gentrify it? Still, if we turn the urban decay into urban chic what will happen to the locals? What will happen to their Tomorrowland?

Ralph Ventura is a lawyer, photographer and blogger living in Miami. The entire gallery of 28 images is available for viewing and purchase here. You can also follow Ralph at his blog.
Photos and text copyright Ralph Ventura, 2011.

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