Culture and Traditions

How the Growing Presence of South Americans in Miami Has Reshaped the City

How the Growing Presence of South Americans in Miami Has Reshaped the City
Bernadine Racoma

Miami has a very large population of people coming from Cuba and countries from Latin and South America. These South Americans in Miami have contributed to the reshaping of the city mired in recession to one that is enjoying an economic boom. During the World Cup, the streets of Miami were always full of people cheering for different teams. Most of these people are from different South American countries, so it was such a colorful mix. There were Colombians wearing yellow shirts. The Argentines were in their blue and white shirts while Brazilians were in their vans blasting samba music. It was like a carnival, with different representatives from South America having a street party. But the scene was not in any South American country. It was in Miami. The festive scene was heightened by smaller children wearing the jerseys of their favorite Latin American soccer heroes.

Everyday scene in Miami

It was not exactly an ode to soccer, but more of the regular scenario in new Miami, which had an influx of rich South Americans during the last 10 years. In the early days, Miami was defined by the presence of Cuban-Americans, which also had such an effect on the growth of Miami’s economy. The transformation of Miami not only came from the immigrants but also from visitors from Latin America, which gradually enriched the city’s culture and also enhanced the appeal of Miami as a center for businesses catering to the Spanish-speaking markets.

Relative wealth

For Bolivian millionaire, Marcelo Claure, the founder of the global wireless distribution company called Brightstar that is based in Miami, he considers the city the capital of Latin America. The new large middle class in Colombia, Peru and Brazil aspires to live in Miami. The economic boom is not only in Miami, but it can be seen all over the Miami-Dade County. This is the new haven for highly educated South Americans that have joined hands to salvage the region that was gripped by recession a few years back.

In 2012 the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region had overtaken Los Angeles in having the largest share of businesses that are owned by immigrants, based on the report of the research group Fiscal Policy Institute. The share is about 45 percent.

Political and media influence

The growing presence of South Americans in Miami also influenced the city’s radio programming and city politics. Radio stations are no longer exclusively targeting Cuban audiences, they are now including programs for the Latin American audiences. The same is true for politics. Democrat Charlie Crist is running for governor and he has named as running mate, Annette Taddeo-Goldstein. She is a Colombian-American living in Miami.

Increase in foreign-born population

In the 1980s, the biggest group of South Americans that settled in Miami were the Colombians and they represented close to 5% of the population of Miami-Dade at that time. Pretty soon Peruvians, Argentines, Brazilians and Venezuelans came as well. After 10 years, the Venezuelan population in the city has surged to 117%. And today, more than half of the residents of Miami are foreign born. About 63% of them speak Spanish when they are at home.

They are now becoming real estate owners; they have refueled the housing market and are establishing several Latin American banks.

However, political observers have noted that while the foreign population had increased, it had not manifested in electoral success. Their effect is more on economic growth, compared to the Cubans, which influenced Miami’s economy and eventually its political scene as well.

Image credit: Miami Beach Florida taken by Poco a poco under Public Domain.

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