Music, dancing, alcohol and tiny swimsuits — spring vacation in the United States, popularly known as “spring break,” brings thousands of young people to south Florida every year for a few days of uncontrolled fun, much to the chagrin of residents in cities like Miami Beach.
At dusk on a grey Thursday, an unusual occurrence in Miami, going-out hub Ocean Drive has become an open-air club. Cafe terraces are packed to the gills, and the party is on in front of every art deco building along the promenade.
The air reeks of marijuana.
A car pulls up and blocks traffic. A young woman jumps out and begins twerking along to the music.
Standing on the sidewalk nearby, Miami resident Anita Cheek watches the dancer.
“I was young before, I understand, but they really don’t take into consideration the people who live here,” says the 52-year-old.
“They get drunk, they throw up on the ground, they leave bottles everywhere and they do all these crazy dances,” Cheek says, adding that some of her neighbours are thinking of moving because of so-called spring breakers.
Lots of partying in the warm weather and very little clothing are already part of the collective image of Miami Beach and its southernmost neighbourhood, South Beach.
But locals seem increasingly upset about it, despite the economic benefits to the city.
Revellers dance on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida, on March 17, 2022. (Photo Credit: AFP)
Faye Bridges, a 29-year-old waitress, sums up the mixed feelings:
“I do love having people over. As I work in a restaurant, for me it’s good, it’s business,” she explains.
“But at the same time, South Beach is now this place where tourists and spring breakers gather… They trash everything, and this is not a pretty look.”
‘Danger to the public’
The Miami Beach city council has taken steps to avoid incidents like last year when police imposed a curfew after arresting more than 1,000 people over the course of six weeks for street fights and vandalism.
Revellers dance on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida, on March 15, 2022. (Photo Credit: AFP)
Authorities have increased police presence in the busiest areas and banned bars from selling alcohol after 2:00 am, rules that will be in place from March 7 to 21.
Clashes like those in 2021 “do not compensate (for) the benefits” of spring break, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said when announcing the measures.
“For the hardship, it may deliver, I’m sorry. But from our point of view, going through that two-week period is a danger to the public,” Gelber told local media.
On one Ocean drive terrace, a cigar in his mouth and a drink in his hand, Rin is content and doesn’t understand the controversy.
The 25-year-old real estate agent, who declined to give his last name, travelled with friends from the Midwestern US state of Ohio for a weeklong vacation in Miami.
“There are beautiful women, you could do whatever out here,” he says. “And if we didn’t come down here, it won’t have the same vibe.”
Shortly after, late at night, noise causes a panicked scene on Ocean Drive. Dozens of people rush down the promenade; many stumble, and some fall to the ground.
One young man says he doesn’t know why he is fleeing the area.
Miami Beach police escort revellers as they gather on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach, Florida on March 15, 2022. (Photo Credit: AFP)
It turns out to be a false alarm, and several people look at each other sheepishly.
The party can go on, and Rin plans to enjoy it until the end. “At least until 7.00 am,” he says, smiling.