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Cultures That Shape Miami

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

By Alyssa Diaz

Graphic Credit to The Buccaneer

Living in Miami is more than walking around the beach, listening to different Spanish conversations on a Saturday or eating at a Cuban café to get that Latin Miami taste everyone talks about. You can also learn about different traditions and how immigration has shaped the city.

Its diversity has made Miami a desirable destination ever since it was established in 1896.

According to Miami Matters, the current population of Miami-Dade County is over 2.7 million people, with 76 percent who are White/Hispanic or Latino, 16 percent who are Black/African Americans, and 2 percent that are Asian.

“Miami’s geographical position makes it an ideal place for migration,” said Carie Penabad, an architect, part of CÚRE & PENABAD and faculty member at University of Miami School of Architecture.

“We are a rich, multicultural society that has been shaped by successive waves of migration beginning with the early pioneer settlers, the Bahamians, the Haitians and the varied Cuban and Latin American migrations that have changed the physical and cultural character of the city.”

Miami is now more culturally diverse than it was fifty years ago. And the range of students at Barry showcases its extent.

Photo Credit to Wikipedia

“A lot of Cubans come to Miami because we are the closest to Cuba and already [have the] vast majority of their families [who] live here,” said Karly Perez, Cuban/Salvadoran junior majoring in public advertising. “[What] I like about Miami is that fact since everyone is Hispanic someway shape or form, everyone works together. We have each other’s backs because we know the struggles everyone had to go through to get here.”

Jamaican public relations major and senior Zhonnell Bailey said, “having Jamaicans in Miami allows others to learn and understand Jamaican culture and everything we have to officer.”

Perez and Bailey have a similar story of their mothers immigrating to the U.S. in hopes of a new life and education. It's a home away from home, especially for families who move where their ethnic group; lives the most.

Photo Credit to Wikipedia

“You’ll find Haitians anywhere in Florida, but the largest population is little Haiti in North Miami,” said sophomore Briana Bapthelus, who is Haitian, majoring in English. “I enjoy living in Miami as we are exposed to the different cultures that are so like mine. For example, even when I'm around my Cuban or Dominican friends, I never feel too out of place culturally.”

Honduran junior, Dominque Pineda, majoring in PR & advertising, moved to the U.S. after she turned 18 years old.

“I feel a lot of Hondurans are in Calle Ocho area,” she said. "Miami makes you feel like you belong somewhere even though you're not in your own country. It makes you feel welcome.”

Anastasiia Samokhvalova, a Russian Summa Cum Laude graduate with a BSBA majoring in accounting and finance, said you can find Russians in Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, or Sunny Isles.

“Miami is its own special world, different from the rest of the United States,” she said. “In Russia, it would be hard to achieve high athletic and academic accolades at the same time, yet I still was able to get my bachelor’s degree in Russia by studying online parallel to my Barry degree.”

Photo Credit to Pexels

With inspiration from all over the world, Miami has developed its own unique identity separate from the collective U.S. from its diversity.

“What I love about living in Miami is the fact that there's always something to do,” said Joyce Azonye, who is a Nigerian sophomore majoring in English with specialization in professional writing. “Miami is close to a lot of different islands; I feel that's why so many people migrate down here.”

However, she said, “Miami doesn't have too many [Nigerians].”

But at the same time, many visitors who come to South Florida often find a reflection of their home created by previous immigrants. This makes it simple to maintain their customs and speak their local language.

Senior Ricardo Brancho Munoz, parts Colombian and Venezuelan studying communications & PR, said, “My culture is full of hard workers. Having different cultures clash allows communities to grow stronger and become unified.”

Sara Madera, a senior Puerto Rican with Norwegian roots majoring in communications & media, is a resident student from Connecticut. Where she’s from, northern Hispanics keep to themselves.

Photo Credit to Pexels

“I always call myself a gringa because I don't really speak Spanish fluently, but I feel Hispanic here,” she said. “Miami is more open. Miami is the center and you’re two hours away from everything. Latin [culture] here is a move. If you don’t know Bad Bunny by now, you should!”

But no matter where you go, it’s obvious South Florida is more than Hispanics. Miami would not be the beautiful city it is today if it weren't for its immigration.

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