Art on the Street: Mirla Pereira on Lincoln Road

Categories: Art
Many of Miami's creatives are transient, showing up on our shores and disappearing as quickly as the tides. The Art on the Street series will document this overlooked and ever-changing element of South Beach culture.

Camille Lamb
Mirla Pereira interacts with a child on Lincoln Road

"I prefer performing for children; they are always happy and adults are always angry," jokes 25-year-old Mirla Pereira. Her voice sounds like that of a delicate forest nymph with a sweet Cuban accent, which I guess is appropriate for someone whose job is to dress like a fairy and give children stardust.

Pereira came to Miami from Havana by herself when she was 19 years old. She has no family here. When she first arrived, she took odd jobs working at shops and restaurants in order to pay her rent while taking some non-credit classes at Miami-Dade College. "But I didn't like those jobs," she says. "I wasn't happy. I was doing nothing for people." 

An artist and performer from the age of 14, Pereira says she yearned to create. So she decided to try her hand at craft and jewelry making. She got a permit from the City of Miami Beach to sell items on Lincoln Road. During the hours spent on Lincoln, Pereira observed performance artists, like the silver or white living statues that are often out on the pedestrian mall. She had the idea to create a character of her own that would appeal specifically to children. She first stepped up onto her tiny stage about a year and a half ago and has been performing about four days a week ever since, appearing as one of four characters, including "the gold princess" and "the purple fairy." 

"I make my own dresses, buy my makeup and my props, everything," she said. The act is her primary source of income, so her livelihood is pretty dependent on the artist/street performer permit that she holds from the City of Miami, and that is a pretty precarious possession. Every three months the city requires that vendors and performers participate in a lottery to award spots on Lincoln Road. "Sometimes you get moved around, sometimes you just don't get one," Pereira says. "I didn't get one for January, February and March. I was so sad. I had no way to make money. This is the only thing I know how to do."

Desperate, she went back to the city shortly thereafter to find that one of the vendors hadn't paid the $150 fee required for permit ownership. And so the permit was transferred to her and she was granted a reprieve for another season.

As for the content of her street performances, she keeps it short and sweet. "People are moving so I have to do something fast," she says. "I tell them a fairytale about two birds, and then I tell them I have some magic powder from the stars. I give them some of the magic powder and tell them to make a wish." Her act is also scholastic at times. "I ask the kids if they know things, like if they can give me a word that starts with the letter 'V.' If they can, I give them a little prize."

In addition to her Lincoln Road appearances, Pereira created her own children's theater and story hour that she ran for a few Sundays out of the back building of a restaurant downtown. She's also had some Spanish-language television gigs, and she's performed monologues she penned at venues like ArtSpoken (529 S.W. 12th Ave., Miami). This Saturday and Sunday she'll perform another such monologue at the Festival Latinoamericano del Monologo at the Havanafama theatrical company (752 SW 10th Ave., Miami 33130).  

Still, Pereira's true love is street performance. "Everyone has access to street artists. You don't have to go to the theater." When asked what her ideal gig would be, she says "I would like to travel all over the world with a big company, doing performances for kids on the street. I know, it sounds kind of crazy."

Maybe so, but the world could probably stand a little more of that kind of crazy.

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