Danny Diaz
Military firefighter, DJ
December 2011

My story: “We left Cuba in 1970 with just the clothes on our backs and came to the United States for a better life. There were five of us–my mother, my father, my sister, my grandmother, and myself. My dad’s brother was in Miami, and he got visas for our family.

I graduated from high school in 1981, and a year later I joined the Air Force as a full-time firefighter. I did active duty for 11 years. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was my first assignment right out of fire school, from ’82 to ’86, then Germany, then Michigan when I finished with the Air Force in 1992. I came back to Dayton bcause my children’s grandparents are from this area, and I was offered a job as a base firefighter at Wright-Patt.”

On connecting cultures: “When I’m not working on base, I’m a DJ in Dayton and surrounding cities–DJ Danny D. I always had a love for music and even in high school was playing for small parties.  I have a lot of music and can play all kinds of stuff, and I do a lot of private parties and weddings, but I’m known for my Latin nights in Dayton and Cincinnati. I played at El Diablo Lounge for seven years, until it closed. We’re going on our fifth year with Salsa Saturdays at Therapy Cafe in downtown Dayton, and it still gets packed.

I basically promote gathering. Salsa brings people from all backgrounds–brings Latino, Asian, black, white, everything, until there are no color boundaries because the music brings everyone together. Folks regularly come out from Columbus, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis too. Find a meeting place, and folks learn about each other’s cultures; it’s been a successful formula to me.”

Latinos in Dayton: “Some folks will say there aren’t many Latinos here. There are many; we’re just all spread out among different areas of town. There’s a large group in Huber Heights, there’s a group in Kettering, Dayton. Hamilton has a huge population from the Dominican Republic. There are a lot of Latinos who left the military and decided to stay here. The folks I encounter are from all kinds of backgrounds.”

Why Dayton? “Job security is a big part of it for me. Because of its history and special technologies, Wright-Patterson has higher job security than most other bases, so there’s no need to bounce around. You can’t put a price tag on some of those facilities. And on the music side, I feel like I’m able to do a service here because I’m not a needle in a haystack. In Miami, I’d be a dime a dozen. There aren’t many Latin DJs in the Dayton area, though, and so I feel like what I do benefits a good portion of people.

What I really enjoy is the tranquility. Not too much of the craziness, the hustle and bustle. Miami is so overpopulated. In Cuba, we were used to seeing large, open areas. Country, greenery, livestock–that’s our culture. You don’t see that in Miami; it’s a brick and pavement city. You don’t see squirrels, even. But Ohio has all of that. Being from an island, I miss the water. There are so many ponds and lakes here. When my mother was alive and visited here from Miami a few times, she’d say, “It makes me feel like I’m back in Cuba.” She loved when she came here. Here in Ohio, it brings back that feeling of the culture that many Latinos enjoy.

My son is a student at The Ohio State University, in aerospace engineering. There are a lot of different conventions the area schools have that involve robotics and electronics. He got a chance to participate in those when he was growing up, and look where he is now. Ohio did well for him.

The cost of living is incredible here, and in this economy that’s huge. With crime, you don’t have to be on guard 24/7. Everyone’s relaxed, polite, and very helpful. It’s got a home-type feel.”