The Atlantic crossing from Lisbon takes nine hours.
We spent almost all of our time above salty, bluish water. With luck, even in the first half of the route, we caught a glimpse of some Azorean islands. From May to the end of October, in the middle of hurricane season, the flight proves to be somewhat more turbulent, nothing that causes apprehension.
Almost ending the arc route aimed at the latitude of the Tropic of Cancer, over the north of the Bahamas archipelago and on the edge of the Florida peninsula, the plane's window frames an unexpected landscape compensation.
In an area left behind by a hurricane that breaks to the north, hundreds of small, ethereal clouds hover over the smooth, translucent sea.
Their shadows seem to float just below, in abundant patches that dwarf those of a few patches of reef.
We progress southwest.
These patches give way to a long barrier, covered by waves of coral sand, so white that the surface dyes them cyan.
The flyover keeps us in that tone and in absolute wonder for another fifteen minutes.
Until we passed over a true tongue of land, consolidated to the point of supporting vegetation and buildings.
Miami: Gateway to Latin America in Sight
It's the trendy fringe of Miami Beach.
A lagoon dotted with islets, almost all of them built, it is connected to adjacent Florida by four or five roads and bridges imposed on the lagoon.
At least three of them lead to the core of the great metropolis that we had as our final destination. The direction of the wind dictated that, to land, we still had to enter and circle the Everglades, the flooded prairie that contains the city to the west.
The landing and incursion into the immense airport reinforces what we had already seen on previous visits. We are arriving in the United States.
The people who process the entrance and who we encounter almost all have Spanish-American looks. They talk in Spanish softened by the warmer climate.
When they approach us, they have difficulty concluding whether or not we are “like them”. Accordingly, they switch to the accented English required by professional protocols.
The linguistic dominance we feel upon arrival is a symptom of a broader reality. In the USA, only New York welcomes more annual visitors than Miami.
If, as in our case, Europeans and even more North Americans disembark there, the bulk of the foreigners come from the broad southern half of the Americas, which, like Florida, was discovered for the New World by the Spanish and which has remained Hispanic.
The great exception to this universe lies in the millions of Brazilian passengers, divided between tourists, immigrant workers and recent American converts.
Cuban Protagonism in Miami
Due to the proximity and the intense exodus that followed Fidel Castro's takeover of power in 1959, there are more than 1.2 million Cubans. The fact that Miami's most famous Cuban neighborhood is called Little Havana proves to be illusory.
Almost half of Miami County's population is of Cuban origin. The wealthier refugees flew from Cuba as soon as they realized that the island's Revolutionary-Communist turn would doom them. Over the decades, many more followed us, as best they could, some aboard planes and large boats.
Others, the balseros, on improvised rafts that, in some tragic cases, betrayed them.
Little Havana, with its bars, murals, cigar bars and Máximo Gomez Park where Cubans play noisy domino games and tournaments, discussing the latest sporting and political news in their new homeland, displays the picturesque side of Cuban migration .
All over the county, monuments to the entrepreneurship of these newcomers stand out.
Jorge Mas Santos was born in Miami (in 1962), the son of Cuban immigrants. He is the president of MasTec, a multinational specialized in construction and infrastructure, based in Coral Gables.
Even if he is considered a billionaire, in the incredible financial success of the people of Miami, he does not even appear in the Top 10. Even so, his fortune estimated at 1.3 billion dollars allowed him to acquire the football club Inter Miami and, in July 2023, hire for extraterrestrial values (read between 50 to 60 million annually), the Argentine star in decline Lionel Messi.
Miami and its Other Latin Americans
Miami's other large Latin American community is made up of the ever-creative Puerto Ricans, now numbering more than two hundred thousand. Colombians and Mexicans follow. In recent times, only Madrid can match Miami in welcoming Spanish-Americans.
Both assimilate, without hesitation, the real estate investments they make there. Both offer, in return, sophisticated and cosmopolitan experiences.
In meteorological terms, the taint of Madrid's winter cold is on par with the excessive heat, humidity and hurricanes of Miami's summer.
So excessive in recent times that the authorities decided to appoint a pioneer Chief Heat Officer.
Year after year, as winter arrives in the northern hemisphere, another, usually seasonal, community joins Miami's Latin American community. It is made up of North American retirees and digital nomads (Americans and Canadians) who take shelter, in Miami, from the freezing winter of the great North.
Since Venezuela took the same ideological path as Cuba, Venezuelans have arrived and settled in considerable numbers, attracted by the endless possibilities of this sultry south in the Land of Opportunity.
Miami Beach, the Waterfront and Miami Bay
Discovering Miami, we wandered through the Art Deco domain of Miami Beach, which the authorities transformed into an island with space for art, culture, and a healthier multinational coexistence.
Although it doesn't seem like much anymore, from what was a festive den filled with the vices fought on TV and in the city by the brigades "Miami Vice” and, in his bloodthirsty way, later, by “Dexter”.
Over the years, this evolutionary tide spread to other parts of Miami. He inspired other cities in Florida and neighboring states to follow his example.
Even the abandoned and degraded Wynwood neighborhood gave way to a vast urban art gallery. And, with this metamorphosis, its streets and buildings gained enormous value in the real estate market.
We explored the Miami Waterfront and the Miami Bay that stretches between them.
A guided boat ride through these backwaters reveals to us – now from bottom to top – the prolific skyline of Miami, made up of measured skyscrapers, exuberant enough.
Later, from one of the islands in the bay, we would close the day admiring how, with the afterglow, its grayish profile was converted into a festival of light, two of its bridges lit up in an almost fluorescent blue.
The countless golden squares of the skyscrapers reflected in the water, shining against the ultimate sky blue.
Still in the morning, behind the buildings and above, a front of cumulus nimbusloaded and bluish, they were preparing to invade the city, to rain, flash and make the residents sweat.
If we take into account Florida's appetite for attracting and suffering from hurricanes, they were all minor evils.
Little Haiti and the Historical Genesis of Miami
On other days, we delve into different, less visited neighborhoods in the city, because they are less safe and, above all, less touristy.
In Little Haiti, we find a counterpart to Little Havana, much further away, to the north, from the city's CBD.
There, in the so-called Lemon City, a large part of Haitians, Bahamians and Caribbeans from other places were concentrated, many of them ancestral immigrants from the city, arriving since the beginning of the 30th century. Today, gathered in a predominantly African-American community of almost XNUMX thousand inhabitants.
The people of Little Haiti live in an expansion of small single-story houses, on streets with French-Creole names. We see them, humble, degraded, but, like Miami in general, airy and refreshed by a generous layer of trees that the weather irrigates.
In architectural terms, the bright market building and the statue in honor of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the black general who triggered the Haitian Revolution, stand out.
It is said that Miami is one of the few cities in the United States founded by a woman, in this case, Julia Tuttle, a citrus producer who, faced with the need to transport her fruits, convinced a tycoon named Henry Flagler to to make the railway he built pass through his lands.
The rails increased the value of plantations and properties. In an instant, due to migration, Miami's residents increased from a mere three hundred to many thousands. However, over two million.
The emblematic and sonorous name it bears comes from the term Mayami (great water) that the Calusa and Tequesta natives used for the current lake Okeechobee and for the Mayami ethnic group who also inhabited its banks.
It preserves its ironic touch that, two centuries after – from the Spanish conquerors to the US army – the invaders of America subjected the natives of these parts, the World seems to be divided between two divergent ways of pronouncing the name of the city: between the original Mayami and the Hispanic Míami.
For Miami, it makes little difference. The city has a whole world to seduce and welcome.
HOW TO GO
Book the flight Lisbon – Miami (Florida), United States, with TAP: flytap.com per from €620.