Meet Richard Guzman, 305 lifer, legal professional, and Commissioner member

📸: Photo courtesy of Monica McGivern

Richard, let’s start with the basics: Who are you? What do you do?
First thing’s first: I am a 305 lifer, born and raised in the county of Dade. Like many Miami natives, I am a first generation American and the child of hard-working immigrant parents.

I am a practicing attorney. For the last nine years, I’ve been dedicated to representing individuals and small businesses in a variety of practice areas including injury cases, insurance disputes, contract negotiations, business consultations and contract formation. In 2020, I founded my own practice, The Guzman Firm, PLLC, to bring effective and affordable legal representation to the communities that need it most. 

Apart from my professional life, I am a supporter of the arts and joined Commissioner, a subscription-based art collecting program, over four years ago. I first learned about Commissioner in the Miami New Times and decided to join on a whim in hopes of connecting with local artists and organizations. In addition to the artwork that we receive as Collector members, I’ve since met some incredible people across professional fields, who like me, are interested in building community and getting involved in the arts.

What’s an unpopular opinion you have about Miami?
I don’t know if it is unpopular, but we don’t need any more tech and finance bros down here. The city was already nearly impossible to afford for working class folks, who make up the majority of our residents. Now, it’s basically impossible to afford rent and I fear that our housing crisis is only getting exponentially worse.

What’s your favorite local social media account to follow and why?
Billy Corben’s Twitter because he is usually shining a light on some of the most important local news stories that we may miss out on. More importantly, he’s constantly holding the fire to the feet of our elected leaders. 

How does our city help you do what you do or influence your work?
Miami has opened my mind to the importance of embracing people regardless of their differences. Even when Miami was a much smaller place, I always remember a healthy diversity in race, religion, and culture. And, I can always recall making friends no matter where they fit in any of the above categories. That exposure solidified a foundation of acceptance in my heart and soul, which has served me in too many ways to name.  

What’s your favorite Miami memory?
The first would be 2006 when the Miami Heat won their first title. The Miami Heat have been my favorite team my whole life, so it was like winning the lotto. It was also the year I graduated high school, and for me, the championship felt like the city was at a nexus point of progress. 

The second memory that resonates most is the inaugural Commissioner art reveal in 2018 with multidisciplinary artist Typoe. I didn’t know it that night, but I would meet so many people who would become friends, inspirations and colleagues. It felt like someone had finally found the key to unlocking connections between so many different groups of people that would eventually help get this town to where it needs to be. 

Wax poetic for a minute and tell us: what brings you most alive about the 305?
Miami’s history, because of what I believe it can inspire for our future.

Our history is one of incredible progress and inspiration. It’s founded by a woman (or women, if we include Mary Brickell with Julia Tuttle). Our founding charter was mostly signed by Black men — many from the Bahamas and a harbinger of the importance of Caribbean and Latin American emigres to our fair city — during a time of segregation and Jim Crow; a fact that is all the more astonishing because Miami was/is a city in the Deep South. 

But, Miami is also a place that still needs a lot of work to rectify our failings. We are still a city segregated by race and wealth, where wealth inequality is more akin to a developing country than to a city in the world’s foremost economic power — a city whose very existence is being jeopardized by climate change, but whose politics are not willing to meet the challenge. 

Our history inspires me to believe that even the seemingly impossible can be made real and that our present circumstances do not have to dictate our future. If we are willing to look honestly at where we came from, it can drive us forward to continue building toward something even better. 

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’ll preface my answer by stating that my parents are from Barranquilla, Colombia. It is the biggest city of the country’s Caribbean region, so I was raised enjoying many of the traditional delicacies of Barranquilla. The closest thing that comes to that region’s flavor is Curramba in Hialeah. It’s a small nondescript spot in a strip mall and makes some of the finest fritos and Colombian food I’ve ever had. 

My forever-meal would have to be their arroz con coco, with a whole fried fish — head still attached — and patacon. Wash it down with some manzana Postobon.  

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.
My perfect Miami day changes slightly depending on whether it is summer or non-summer — our two seasons. 

In the summer, the perfect day starts with a big breakfast at around 11:00 a.m. at one of my favorite delis, Roasters n Toasters on 41st Street in Miami Beach. Usually a 2-2-2 with two scrambled eggs, two well-done french toast, two bacon strips and a bottle of Kennesaw orange juice. 

Then, at around 2:00 p.m., hanging out at the beach with friends somewhere above 41st St, where you’re less likely to run into tourists and where the wall of condos along the water will begin to cast shadows at around 3:00 p.m. Their shadows are a respite from the unforgiving sub-tropical sun. 

At about 7:00 p.m. when the beautiful cotton candy pastel sky is in full effect, I’ll head home to freshen up, then meet up with friends somewhere chill with good music and fairly priced drinks like The Anderson, The Pool Hall at Red Rooster, or The Bar. I would probably end the night with the best pan con bistec Miami has to offer from Mary’s Coin Laundry in Silver Bluff.

A non-summer day would ideally start with a similar morning and end with a similar night.  But, instead of the beach, I would spend the afternoon or early evening at a cultural event, gallery show or new exhibit opening. I’d enjoy my day by learning about a new artist or supporting a local arts organization. If I am lucky enough, I may even find a new piece to add to my collection. 

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Whether you’re real Dade folks who’ve been here your whole lives, or you’ve just arrived to our tropical place, get out and explore what our town has to offer. 

It has been my experience that a lot of people from here are unaware of all of the great things going on around the county all the time. If you like nature, we’re buttressed by two national parks; we have two state parks in relatively close proximity with Oleta and John Pennekamp; and then there’s Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the Deering Estate, the Kampong Gardens, and so much more. 

If you’re into the arts, our cultural institutions, while young, punch above their weight. From the New World Symphony, Miami City Ballet, or the wonderful museums all over town, to incredible galleries, artist studios and organizations in almost every corner of the 305 such as Commissioner, Diaspora Vibe Cultural Arts Incubator and Oolite Arts, there’s an ecosystem of support in Miami that nurtures our artists and puts on events all the time. 

If you are into partying, well, I don’t have to explain to you… there is something for everyone here. All you have to do is peek around a few corners, read some of our fine local publications, and meet some great people who share your interests.  

For recently-arrived folks now calling Miami home, I invite you to lean in and learn about Miami’s rich culture. The people who truly make this town run are the salt of the earth. I often think that if they spoke more English, or were of a different skin tone, they’d probably be those that officials and media reference when talking of real Americans. Take the time to meet these people; learn about their history, their languages, what brought them here and why they haven’t left. 

Learn about how they took a sleepy backwater and turned it into a place where you could feel like you’re in a different country. Many folks have ended up in Miami due to horrible circumstances out of their control, and from that, have created a place that we all call home. Reflect on the fact that what they created took only a short period of time and made you want to move here. 

What are you looking forward to this year?
Continuing to build with those people who are putting in the work, and not just coming to pave over paradise with parking lots. 

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2022.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.