Key Biscayne resident authors new book: The Miami Creation Myth
Otazo on recent environmental issues:
“The shark attack occurred three miles offshore in the middle of a feeding frenzy.I am personally not concerned. I swim hours at a time along Key Biscayne’s Atlantic coast, and
I’m far more concerned with fecal bacteria and jellyfish than sharks or crocodiles. This bacteria issue is incredibly frustrating. Crandon Park has been regularly closed for unsafe bacteria levels for years, and we still cannot definitively name the source”
Andrew Otazo is known by many locals as the "garbage marathoner" for completing the 2019 Miami Marathon while carrying 30 pounds of garbage on his back from the over 8,000 pounds he has picked up scouring Bear Cut over the years.
Otazo, the son of Cuban immigrants, wrote his first book, The Miami Creation Myth, as a meditation on Miami. His experiences growing up on Key Biscayne heavily influenced his work.
"My passion for Key Biscayne and Virginia Key developed over years of swimming, snorkeling, biking, walking, and kayaking the islands from the time I was a child," Otazo said.
The 32 year old returned to Miami after having a chance to see the world- attending West Point, working at the U.S. State Department’s Office of Andean Affairs, as Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s assistant, as a Research Associate at the Harvard Business School, and then as a research associate at the Cuba Study Group.
Otazo said that while it is easy to focus on Miami’s faults, he wanted to reframe the discussion of Miami. “This book is my love letter to Miami, the only place I don’t feel the need to explain myself,” said Otazo.
While Otazo celebrates Miami with humor, he also takes on more serious issues facing our community such as climate change, race, affordable housing, and gentrification.
IN: How does Key Biscayne fit into the Miami experience?
AO: Key Biscayne provides a historical anchor for a very young city. From ancient mangroves in West Point Preserve, to Tequesta shell mounds along Crandon Boulevard, to the Cape Florida lighthouse, the history of this island is tangible and accessible, if you know where to look.
The Pines Canal was dug by Bill Matheson, one of Miami’s founding fathers. The Half Moon, a German sailing yacht impounded during World War I, lies shipwrecked a mile offshore.
Stiltsville’s seven remaining houses hosted all-night prohibition benders fueled by Cuban and Bahamian rum runners. I found unexploded mines dating back to World War 2 during my Bear Cut cleanups. Richard Nixon visited his “Winter White House” on Bay Lane over 50 times during his presidency. Sea turtles still build their nests along our Atlantic coast.
In a city dominated by glass, asphalt, and newly-poured concrete, Key Biscayne grounds us. It grants a glimpse into the disparate historical threads that, when entwined, created Miami.
IN: How has your environmental work on Key Biscayne impacted your work?
AO: Key Biscayne’s nature is everywhere in my work. When a goddess walks through the mangroves in The Miami Creation Myth, what she sees is West Point Preserve. The subtropical forest in my stories can be found along Bear Cut’s Osprey Trail.
The teaming seagrass beds are offshore Crandon Park and the Beach Club. The coral reefs are just east of Virginia Key. The miles of drifting sandbars are the Safety Valve between Cape Florida and Soldier Key. I’ve run, swam, paddled, biked, and hiked practically every inch on and around Key Biscayne.
I love it all deeply, and writing these stories down allows me to make them tangible and share them with others. I especially love describing the hyperbolic surrealism of living in South Florida. Our stories are incredible, though rarely told by actual Miamians.
All great chroniclers going back to Homer hold mirrors to their societies and show them who they are, where they come from, and why things are as they are. I aspire to do the same for our community—while making light of our myriad idiosyncrasies along the way.