Meet the “Witches” Bringing Mystical Queer Nightlife to Miami

Vanessa Coy

Nestled in Downtown Miami is a cozy bar that first catches your eye because of its bright sign that reads, in yellow cursive, “Mama Tried” — also the name of the establishment. On this night, what is typically a laidback spot for happy hour and late-night dancing has transformed into a packed room with a vibrant atmosphere. Queer and trans folks don curated looks that make everyone resemble gods and goddesses. Bodies sparkle underneath the disco ball as perreo echoes through the speakers. Signs reading “Consent is sexy” line the walls. And as the witching hour hits, romance follows.

This is Witches of Miami. Founded by photographer, art director, and bruja wayuu/añu Vanessa Coy, alongside DJ, event producer, and music witch Daniela Bozo, the party blends magic and astrology with a passion for queer nightlife and a genuine love for community. The duo's team of friends and collaborators is composed of proudly Latine, Indigenous, immigrant, Black, and femme-presenting queer individuals and allies intent on centering and celebrating multi-dimensional femme identities.

The road to forming Witches wasn’t exactly straightforward (pun intended). Coy and Bozo met in high school when they still lived in Venezuela, but they didn't become friends until years later, after they had both immigrated to Miami, when they ran into each other at a restaurant where Bozo was working. Soon, they would end up becoming neighbors.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Coy and Bozo’s friendship grew. Quarantining, and with plenty of time on their hands, they decided to bring their dreams to life. Before COVID, Bozo had bought DJ equipment and then, when the pandemic hit, started to livestream her sets on Twitch. Though she was quickly drawing a weekly audience, the production wasn’t exactly giving. Enter Coy, who, with their passion for visuals and photography, supported Bozo by adding lighting and colorful backdrops.

As life in Miami slowly started to return to some kind of normal, Coy and Bozo found themselves booked and busy, asTwitch had put them Miami’s nightlife radar. But this transition back into what were once spaces that they frequented with friends ended up feeling unsafe. They quickly realized that what was missing was a space for them and their loved ones, so they took it upon themselves to create it.

Them spoke to the Witches of Miami co-founders about their journey to becoming one of Miami’s most prominent queer collectives.

It sounds like blending your passions helped you come together. Tell me a little bit about how Witches of Miami came to be.

Daniela Bozo: We wanted a place that embraces and prioritizes femmes. The queer spaces that we knew about were mostly just white cis gay men. And even in those spaces, femmes, Trans, NB people of color didn’t feel very safe.

Vanessa Coy: At that point we weren’t even thinking long term. We just wanted to be with people who vibed with us. And without trying, the people that started coming to Witches were queer and trans people of color, immigrants, younger people. Our first party was a bunch of our friends, but we were surprised to see a lot of people we didn't know.

DB: Our promo said, “Want to join the coven?” We shared it on Instagram and also printed a bunch of stickers and put them in the cool alternative and queer places we knew of. It was a really good turnout. We weren’t used to putting ourselves out there like that. This was our thing.

VC: It's something that represents us and what we stand for. Fast forward to our first anniversary. We had a line for the first time ever!

I imagine that since that first year, there’s been a lot of growth. I’d love to hear more about what makes Witches of Miami unique.

VC: After that first year, we realized this was becoming real. People would tell us, “This is a place we needed and is so important to the community.” We knew at that point there was no going back. It wasn’t just a party but a responsibility. We were building with the community.

DB: That's when we started to become more serious about it. We registered Witches as an LLC. We had written a Code of Conduct, but after that first year, we made sure it was visible and enforced at every event. Vanessa designed a bunch of flyers to put up at our events.

Even though we had all of these rules we hadn’t communicated them with everyone. Sure we kicked people out if they didn’t follow the rules, but it's also about educating people. From the attendees, to the bartenders, to security.

VC: And we took on that responsibility. Every venue that we have an event at, we train the staff. We talk about gender-neutral bathrooms, how to ask for pronouns and be accountable if you misgender someone, how to be mindful when checking IDs because we have a lot of trans/NB people who come.

DB: That switch was important because we would always say that we were a safe space for the community. But what were we actually doing to make it so? After that, we realized we also wanted to create different intentional spaces and it’s what we’ve been focusing on for our 2024 events.

I can definitely see the care that is put into your space, and it matters because Miami doesn't really have brick-and-mortar queer bars/clubs. There’s a couple that pop up, and Wilton Manors in Fort Lauderdale has some that have been around for years. But those still center white cis gay men and white cis lesbians.

DB: Mama Tried, which isn’t a queer bar, was the first venue who opened their doors to us. Almost all of our events in our first year were held there. Even though we don’t host our events there anymore, they were the first to believe in us.

VC: Our space prioritizes queer and trans femmes, immigrant/first-gen folks of color. And after the pandemic, so many spaces we had enjoyed going to were not the same. They had been taken over by out-of-towners who didn’t care about our community.

DB: We're also two femme presenting people. Even trying to get a deal with a venue is always a thing. They always underestimate us without considering that we've been doing this for years.

We want queer/trans people to feel like we don’t have to hide. Why do we have to have an underground party when cishet people are always taking up space? We understand it's not always safe, and we’ve had to do different things to survive.

VC: We deserve to make ourselves visible, too. We want to see things change. We have to put ourselves out there and take up space.

The queerness at your events is so evident. What are some events you have done?

VC: Astrology is core to Witches. We wanted to be intentional about what was going on in the cosmos to plan our events so we could know what the vibe/energy was going to be.

DB: We started with Scorpio energy — our anniversary falls around Halloween, and we have that energy present in everything we do. For our latest anniversary, we had live rock bands, which is a side of Witches we haven’t shown as much. Tarot readers are such a big part of our event. We've had The Tarot Queen, LaDon Tarot and AR KEDABAR with the Astro readings.

VC: We do the “Zodiac Ball” in December. We've done it for two years. The dress code is gala attire that represents astrology. It's all about the Universe and setting intentions for the new year. For that event we usually do a clothing drive or collect donations for different nonprofit organizations.

DB: We’ve collaborated with [multi-genre DJ collective] The Love Below for “The Lovers”. It’s my favorite party because it falls on my birthday, which is Valentine's Day. [TLB] opened a new world for us, they were our first collaboration and helped us realize we didn't need to handle everything on our own.

VC: There’s also our collab with Perreo En Patines. We were so hype for that one, and we don't even skate. I didn't know there were so many queer skaters. It felt like another community that we hadn’t met yet, but that felt very much part of ours. We want to do another one with them.

“Fruity” is another. We just had our second one. It’s our nonprofit event. Both of them we did in collaboration with Florida Access Network, and for this last one, we brought CJ On The Go and Aymeth to be part of it as well. This event feels so central to us because we don’t make a dollar, but it serves our community.

Neither inclement weather nor Uber surge pricing could stop the will of these lesbians and their makeshift prayer circle.

DB: We’ve also done “Femme Prom” which we do around Wynwood Pride in June. Most Pride events in Miami center cis gay men, but we wanted to center femmes.

VC: When we brought this idea to life, it was very emotional. A lot of people had a lot to heal from when it came to their prom. Perhaps they didn’t get to have one because of COVID, or they couldn’t go in clothing that felt affirming or with people they wanted to go with. People would even tag us in promposals. “Femme Prom” feels so important for our community.

DB: Those are the things that keep us focused. Seeing how our community responds and feels seen. We’re excited to do it again this year.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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Originally Appeared on them.