Video by: Ignacio Torres
It’s 10 a.m. and while most people are just getting settled in at work, Lazaro Mendez, most commonly known as DJ Laz, has finished his Miami radio morning show and is onto his second show of the day.
Mendez, who has 18 singles, eight studio albums, a syndicated radio show, and has even received kudos from President Obama for discovering Flo-Rida and Pitbull, continues to push forward without forgetting the hardships his family overcame to guarantee him a better life.
The “DJ Laz Morning Show, Coast to Coast” airs in both Miami and Los Angeles. Mendez, who has been on the Miami air waves for over twenty years says he’s on a mission to become a national sensation. “I’m Cuban Latino, they are Mexican Latinos but we are all Latinos. So we can relate in one way, shape or form,” Mendez said when asked how he appeals to both East and West coast Latinos.
Appealing to the West Coast Latino after success with his native Miami crowd has not been too difficult a challenge for him — because behind the turntables is a man who overcame a serious disability to pursue his American Dream.
Benita Mendez, his mother, left Cuba with her three children and with the hope of a better life. But she had no idea what she would encounter once in the United States, when she became pregnant with her fourth child.
“And the doctors come in and let my mom know, ‘It is going to be physically impossible for your son to walk.’”
Mendez was born with the bottom of his feet touching his chest; he describes himself as a human “pretzel.” He was diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex. According to the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine, Arthrogryposis Multiplex is a disease where newborns suffer decreased flexibility in their joints.
“She had it super rough, not only — obviously in Cuba and everything else, having to leave and — but for the baby to be all messed up…she went through it,” Mendez says in his studio, sliding his sunglasses on as his voice begins to crack.
Benita was a headstrong Latina mother who fought the odds and let her faith be her driving force. While kids were playing outside, Mendez asked his dad for some speakers and turntables and that’s how his craft began.
After 17 surgeries, Mendez went from wheelchair to knee braces, and was able to walk — albeit with a limp, that he now considers normal.
“If I didn’t limp or have that disability I wouldn’t have the personality or I would not have had the opportunity that I have had in life,” Mendez explains.