If you think this is another hit piece laying out how Miami is superficial, and vacuous, and immature, and petty, and etc., and etc., well, it’s not. Neither the article nor the city. It’s about how most Miamians feel two simultaneous, seemingly diametrically opposed sentiments about their hometown: boundless pride and utter exasperation. Both are warranted. Neither contradicts the other.
A quick aside to those (usually temporary transplants from the north) who believe the assertions in the first sentence: Go West Young (Wo)Man. Get out of Brickell, Downtown, and South Beach. No one lives on Lincoln Road. No one lives in Bayside Marketplace. No one lives on Ocean Drive. We reside in Kendall, and Overtown, and Hialeah, and Westchester, and Doral, and Opa-locka, and Miami Gardens, and Little Havana, and Allapatah. There, in the house parties, churches, and cafeterías, you will find a cultural mosaic of bold, vibrant colors, a kaleidoscopic spotlight brighter than the July noonday sun. If you believe Miami is soulless, it’s because the locales you frequent have no soul. It speaks volumes about your own cultural myopia and not a single word about South Florida.
But out-of-towners are not my concern. Miamians are. The love we hold for our city runs deep and strong, but is not a positive sense of pride. Bostonians, New Yorkers, Chicagoans, and Philadelphians are famous for insisting on the greatness their cities to outsiders and each other. We don’t really do this. Our pride is more reactive. It surfaces most strongly when we leave and/or others badmouth Miami. We are proud of our diverse cultures, tastemaker status, hustler mentality, and the ceaseless drive of many of our immigrants parents who turned Miami from a Southern tourist backwater into a cosmopolitan world city. We are not particularly proud of the city itself. Largely because it fucking sucks.
If you are a native Miamian and never uttered the phrase “fuck this city,” you clearly live in a parallel universe where South Florida has functioning public transportation, reasonable rents, a developed job market, and politicians who don’t reflexively keep fucking us. Please share your interdimensional portal gun and take the rest of us with you. In my current plane of existence, Miami’s traffic is a nightmare, corruption is endemic, moneyed out-of-towners are always prioritized, you can’t buy a house, and half the county will be underwater in 40 years. And it sure as shit doesn’t look like anyone’s doing a thing about it. So yeah, fuck this city.
Our elected officials failed to meet our communities’ needs for generations. Rather than a reliable bus system, we got endless highway construction. Instead of a poverty alleviation program, we got Marlins Stadium. While our commissioners breathlessly hunt down international communist conspiracies, we pay the highest proportion of our income in rent of any major metropolitan area. How did Miami become the fourth-most corrupt city in the country? How did things get so bad? Mostly because we let them.
We fucked this city every time we didn’t vote in local elections. We fucked it when we ignored our politicians’ histrionics, nepotism, and conflicts of interest. We fucked it whenever we voted in the same assholes simply because they were the assholes we always voted in. We fucked ourselves and each other, so fuck you and fuck me.
I get it, though. It’s hard to care about local elections when your primary concerns are coronavirus, rent, cell phone bills, and grinding hard enough to just barely keep your head above water. Luckily, I have a simple, three-step process for those interested in making a difference without neglecting more pressing needs.
- Occasionally pay attention.
Check in on local candidates. Vote for those who are best-suited to solve our actual problems. Pay attention some more when they’re elected. And if they don’t keep their promises, vote them the hell out. Don’t wait. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s how we wind up with politicians who remain in office for decades with nothing to show for it. Keep them accountable, keep them worried about their jobs, and stop letting them run roughshod over our concerns.
I probably don’t agree with most of my readers on innumerable domestic and foreign policy issues. After all, collect 10 Miamians in a room and they’ll leave with 11 opinions. I also don’t care. Last I checked, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Communists, and Monarchists all hate-rush hour traffic. We all pay too much in rent. We all lose tax dollars to unscrupulous politicians. And we’re all fucking tired of all the above.
I am boundlessly optimistic about Miamians, from the Bahamians who built the city’s foundations, to the Cubans who accelerated its growth, to the Haitians, Venezuelans, Mexicans, Nicaraguans, Brazilians, Dominicans, Colombians, and myriad other communities who are integral to its continued success. I am proud of our people. And people make up Miami. I look forward to when we can be equally proud of our hometown—without qualifiers.
If you like our stories, out the first chapter of our upcoming book.