Max Castro remembers the 1970s, when Cuban-Americans would talk about traveling to “the magic one” for the weekend. The Magic City is just one of many nicknames Miami has acquired during its transformation from swampland to vacation spot, Castro said.
But during a lecture Tuesday, Castro said a lot of global trends are coming to the forefront in Miami. Castro discussed the history of social and political tensions in Miami and a culture that goes beyond the Cuban-American population.
“Miami is a city that’s on the edge,” Castro said. “Miami is at the epicenter of a historical phenomenon of the greatest wave of migration since the turn of the century.”
Author of This Land is Our Land: Immigrants in Power in Miami, Castro found while conducting research for his book and while he served as a senior researcher at the University of Miami that 51 percent of Miami’s population is foreign-born.
But there is a perception that a majority of those foreign-born are Cubans.
“While doing research for this book, we found it was hard to get research money for (a study on) Miami,” Castro said. “The image was that the only thing in Miami is Cubans and cocaine.”
But Miami is closer to more Latin-American capitals than any other city in the United States, Castro said, and for that reason he said Cubans make up less than 50 percent of the Latino population in the city.
With a coast that nears Latin America and the Caribbean, Miami draws more people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Haiti, Castro said.
Castro added that many people perceive Miami as predominantly Cuban in a political aspect as well.
Castro’s columns have appeared in the Miami Herald and the nation’s largest Latin newspaper, La Opinion, and as he’s written before, Castro said Miami is more complex than most people realize.
In terms of class organizations, Castro said, there’s a separation between the natives and immigrants of the working, middle class, whereas in Los Angeles the middle class differentiates between white and black workers.
“That makes a lot of difference in terms of power, politics and ideology in Miami,” Castro said.
However, he acknowledged situations among the Cuban-American culture in Miami.
Castro said more Cuban Americans are gaining power, and their children are getting opportunities of empowerment as well.
The mayors of Miami-Dade, Florida International University and Miami Dade College are all Cuban-American. Meanwhile, Castro said there’s also a political influence from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
“There’s an extreme situation of political empowerment, and it plays into the notion of Miami as the capital of Latin America,” Castro said.