Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Zoom Over Miami

Since I moved from St. Petersburg to Miami in September 2001 (right after 9/11), the most frequent question I have heard from St. Pete friends is, “WHY do you want to live in Miami?”

I’m not sure I can answer that question in 25 words or less, but for our blog readers who have a standard, tourist-oriented picture of Miami, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned about this crazy metropolis.

First, let me address some myths about the place:
1. Miami is the same as Miami Beach. Wrong. Miami Beach is where all the tourists want to go. Miami is the place where the airport is located. They stay in Miami only long enough to get a cab or a rental car to take them to Miami Beach.

2.Miami Beach is for everybody. Speaking with lots of bias, I can say that Miami Beach is for everybody who is young (under 40), physically fit and attractive, possessed of an upscale clothing budget, a keen ability to find a parking place where none exist, lots of credit cards or cash for high-priced dining, and the stamina to party all night long. Miami Beach is the place to look for celebrities such as rock stars, sports stars, movie stars, TV personalities, etc. They “drop in” on the fancy-schmancy restaurants on Miami Beach like you and I might drop in at the neighborhood Burger King.

3. Miami is populated only by Cubans. The Cubans have the PR knack but actually, Miami is populated by Argentinians, Chileans, Brazilians, Colombians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, Panamanians. Ecuadoreans, Salvadorans, as well as Asians from China, India, Pakistan, and Japan. These groups tolerate the existence of English-speaking American citizens within the city limits.

4. You have to know Spanish if you want to get along in Miami. (Now that I think of it, this statement really ISN'T a myth.) Although Spanish is not the national language of the US, you might get that impression if you spend a lot of time in Miami. A good standard phrase (that I learned from Mrs. Shrum in Spanish class) is “Como se dice este?” (How do you say this?”)

5. The Spanish language is all alike for everybody who speaks it as a first language. Incorrecto, gringo. Each of the Spanish-speaking groups mentioned above have their own “special vocabulary” (none of which I know), but THEY can tell if the person speaking Spanish to them is NOT a member of their own national group.

6. The taco (as in the Taco Bell product) is the universal Spanish food. Incorrecto, once again, gringo turista. The Cuban food that dominates in Miami includes things like chicken and yellow rice (arroz con pollo), roast pork, black beans and rice, and flan (a pudding swimming in a caramel sauce). However, it is possible to spend two weeks in Miami and eat each night at a different ethnic-themed restaurant without ever duplicating.

I’ll add more chapters to this analysis of Miami later. For now, I’ll say “Buenos dias” or “Buenos noches”, depending on the time zone where you’re reading this.

1 comment:

lgbritner said...

Quick Facts US Census Bureau
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/1245000.html
Where first number is Miami, and second number is Florida:

Black or African American persons, percent, 2000 22.3% 14.6%

Asian persons, percent, 2000 0.7% 1.7%

Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2000 65.8% 16.8%

Foreign born persons, percent, 2000 59.5% 16.7%

Language other than English spoken at home, pct age 5+, 2000 74.6% 23.1%

High school graduates, percent of persons age 25+, 2000 52.7% 79.9%

Homeownership rate, 2000 34.9% 70.1%

Median household income, 1999 $23,483 $38,819

Persons below poverty, percent, 1999 28.5% 12.5%

Minority-owned firms, percent of total, 1997 56.3% 22.0%

Persons per square mile, 2000 10,160.9 296.4

Statistically, Miami is a foreign country with minimum assimilation potential, or at least, such would be so on the surface.

As a resident of Miami, are there any visible political forces in play that would make that even more so, or less so?