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How Cubans transformed Miami into a global city

I have a large, and growing, stack of books sitting beside my bed. It is a symptom of my interest in reading exceeding my actual capacity to read, given all the other things I’m doing. However, summer is a good time to get caught up and over the long weekend I did finish reading, The Global Edge: Miami in the Twenty-First Century. It was great, and so now I can confidently recommend it to all of you.

The most interesting storyline for me was the leading role that “pre-Mariel” Cubans (more on this below) played in transforming Miami from a winter destination to an emerging global city. According to 2015 figures, the City of Miami’s population is 70% Hispanic, of which 34% are Cuban. About 70% of the city’s population speaks Spanish at home. And only about 11.9% of the population is white (non-Hispanic).

But the bit that really intrigued me was the distinction that Alejandro Portes and Aerial C. Armony make between the “pre-Mariel” Cubans who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s — many of whom became successful entrepreneurs — and the “Marielitos” who arrived in the 1980s onward. This latter group has, on average, not seen the same kind of financial successes as its predecessors.

The other thing that I think many of you will appreciate is that the authors recognize that all urban phenomena are inherently spatial. And so almost everything they discuss is described in terms of its physical manifestation within the city. Perhaps the most stark is the region’s growing inequality. Wealth along the water; poverty inland.

Here’s some more information on the book if you’re interested.

Photo by Alejandro Luengo on Unsplash

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