I remember when being Latina was cool. I was invited to all of the society parties, fashion events and restaurant openings. People wanted to learn about my culture. Women wanted the secrets to effortless Latin sexiness. Everyone wanted to speak Spanish with me and hear my stories about growing up between the European Buenos Aires flair and the rustic chic ranch life. Everyone loved my South American food and wine. But that was when I lived in San Francisco.
I moved to the Miami – Ft. Lauderdale area about a year and a half ago. And being Latina now is a whole different thing.
My first year here was all about digesting this new Latin environment. In a way, I felt like I had traveled back in time 15 years and was back in Argentina. My first encounter with the Miami Latin atmosphere was on the highway. Cars speeding, horns honking, nonexistent lanes, cell phone talking. Basically it was survival of the fittest. Don’t get distracted by looking at the billboards advertising Brazilian butt lifts and silicone breast augmentation along the highways. Driving here requires your full attention and your best skills. And the highways are permanently under construction.
The tourism industry has an economic impact of $67 billion on Florida’s economy. I feel like a lot of this money is being used to build, rebuild, tear down and redesign highways. It feels like being inside a manic video game. You never know what to expect.
The second thing that shocked me was the trash. Miami is a beautiful city, with amazing paradisiac beaches. But sadly everything, even the ocean water, is full of trash, plastic and glass. Recycling here is just starting to catch up now. But unfortunately not among Latinos. As I see it, if it takes effort on their part, it won’t be done. It’s all about comfort and personal benefit.
Many Latinos here are successful and wealthy. A lot of them bring a lot of cash from their countries, buy real estate and luxury cars, and use the system to their own benefit. But sadly, they give nothing back in return. There’s no sense of community, environmentalism or giving back. It feels quite selfish. Maybe this is one of the main reasons why Miami lacks a soul.
I was surprised when I visited this city the first time and people looked at me as if I had come from Mars when I spoke in English. Nobody speaks English! It’s easy to forget that you are in the United States while in Miami. I know that in the throes of the Cold War, many fled to Miami to seek refuge. This also intensified in the 1980s with immigrants not just from Cuba, but Argentina, Venezuela and elsewhere in Latin America. In many areas of Miami, Spanish has become the predominant language, replacing English in everyday life.
I miss living in a multicultural environment.
What’s frustrating is that Latinos in Miami are not willing to learn English, making it a one-dimensional city. As a Latina who immigrated from Argentina to the U.S. more than a decade ago, I think this is very wrong. If you come to a country that gives you everything: a chance to start over, the possibility of buying a house or a car on credit, great free public education for your children, safety, security, and freedom, please at least learn the English language.
Miami gives a lot to many Latinos. It’s a beautiful growing, modern city. It welcomes thousands of Latinos every year who decide to make it their home.
But it’s up to us to keep it clean, to take care of its natural spaces, to recycle, to respect the environment, to give back to our wonderful schools, to learn the English language and to be open to meeting English speaking people. It’s up to us to show the world that Latinas are much more than just a tight butt and perfect breasts, that we have the best food, music, culture and people. That Miami is still an international mecca.
It is only up to us to be proud Latinos again.