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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Welcome to Miami, Part Cuatro

More responses. I can only address those that characterize a large segment of the mail I have been receiving so here goes. You wouldn't believe how happy I am to hear that many of you relocating to Miami have had positive experiences. The last thing I want to do is to either validate or promote exclusionary behavior I may speak of. A few years ago it was a regular occurrence for White residents to throw bananas on the steps of city hall, a symbolic gesture signifying that Miami was becoming a "banana republic". Usually it was just before leaving. I think that the fact people are again coming to Miami from other parts of the country, speaks of some positive changes.

As far as some of the other behavior, it needs to end. I find myself feeling horrible about the treatment of so many Anglo and Black freinds that have been discriminated against. I have witnessed it constantly, with such regularity and general acceptance that I am careful when to voice my disapproval. I refrain from watching Spanish language television and radio because of it. (Local Spanish language media seems to believe that the most horrifically racist comments and depictions are okay.) As a fourth generation American (pre-Revolution, as we call it) Cuban American who grew up mostly outside of Miami, I am far enough away to understand why it's wrong and close enough to witness it.

The balkanization of Miami is crazy. It is not just a Hispanic phenomenon. A third of the White population is Jewish. Many of the beach communities are mostly if not almost entirely Jewish. There are even places that are especially Gay friendly while others can be relatively hostile. If you want to work for the Miami-Dade Department of Transportion you better be African American, (a concession from Latino pols that prevents a Black / White political coalition). Almost the entirety of the large and well established Haitian population lives in one section of the city. Many Haitians will tell you this is not necessarily by choice. The Anglo population all but dissapeared in the nineties because of perceived discrimination.

I would be lying if I said that I did not believe that racism is at the heart of what prevents Miami from being a virtual paradise on earth. The rampant corruption and poverty that Miami (that the city is too well known for) is symptomatic of that racism. People make choices out of fear and insularity rather than respecting people for who they are and what they merit. It hurts the economy and the civic and democratic process.

I laughed when I read your comments about the bilingual conversations. As an English dominant person I can tell you what happens. It is much easier to understand language than to express yourself in it. (Remember Miami has a higher proportion of immigrants than any city in the U.S. and over half the population was born elsewhere.) Thus many people will listen to English and express simple ideas in English but switch over to Spanish when conveying more complex ideas. This is why Spanish speakers sometimes seem abrupt and (let's face it) customer service workers seem inept. I always advise people to keep it simple, and be very cordial and polite. ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers are understandably very sensitive and I believe that this is the cause of a lot of the resentment and conflict. DO NOT equate the inability to speak English as stupidity and treat people accordingly. The last thing we should do is to discourage people from learning to speak the national language.

Rather than anyone leaving, it would be great if more people like you- positive, open, friendly, honest- came and made a home in Miami. I believe it is happening now! Always appreciate your comments Randy. And a belated welcome to the only city with more voters that people! (Seriously.)

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