Six-hundred miles separate Kingston, Jamaica and Miami, Florida, our next stop on this tour of our Small World. Separated by the island-nation of Cuba, Miami’s proximity to other countries makes it a true American melting pot. Miami has the highest percentage of people born outside of the country, at fifty-nine percent. While a large percentage of this population is Cuban, Nicaraguans, Haitians, Hondurans, Dominicans and Colombians also make up a significant portion of residents.
The area now known as Miami was first claimed in the 16th century by Spain, and incorporated as a city on July 28, 1896 with an initial population of just 300 people. Today it is the 42nd largest city in the U.S., with a population of 400,000 within the city limits, and 2.5 million residing in Miami-Dade County. The city is divided into neighborhoods, roughly North, South, West and Downtown (east). Nearly 200,000 residents live in the immediate Downtown area, making it the one of the most populous downtowns in the U.S. behind Chicago and New York.
Miami is home to numerous famous people: Dave Barry, Steve Spurrier and Ricky Martin to name just a few. But one of the more popular residents might be Gloria Estefan, known as the Queen of Latin Pop. She is one of the top 100 bestselling music artists of all time, selling more than 100 million records worldwide. She and her band, the Miami Sound Machine, have scorched up the billboard charts for decades with numerous top ten hits and earning 3 Grammys along the way. The Miami music scene is very diverse due to its varied population; and numerous genres such as reggae, conga, rumba, and samba can be heard across the city’s rich nightlife.
The area of Miami is only 36 square miles, making it the smallest land area of any major U.S. city with a metro area of at least 2.5 million people. Miami is located between the Florida Everglades to the west and the Biscayne Bay to the east. The Everglades National Park covers 1.5-million acres and resides in the counties of Miami-Dade, Monroe and Collier. The park is home to 36 species that are designated as threatened, including the Florida panther, the American crocodile and the West Indian manatee. There are more than 350 species of birds and 300 species of fresh and saltwater fish that call Everglades National Park home as well.
Biscayne Bay is a lagoon that is 35 miles long and up to 8 miles wide at its broadest point. It is typically divided into three areas by the locals: North Bay, Central Bay and South Bay. North Bay lies between the Miami Beach Barrier Island and Miami on the mainland. One of the most well-known areas of Miami Beach is South Beach (aka SoBe). Until the 1980s it was considered a rundown portion of the city, but in that decade of excess, the wealthy and influential moved to the area, spurring a local boom in building and renovation. Today it is a place to see and be seen – and definitely a good port for people watching.
Originally named for the Native American tribe the Mayaimis, Miami is a leading vacation destination. It is the only city in the U.S. to be founded by a woman, Julia Tuttle, who is considered the “Mother of Miami.” Quite appropriately, sunscreen was invented in Miami Beach by a pharmacist in 1944 to help fight off those powerful rays. Affectionately called “America’s Riviera,” Miami is beloved by many. Strolling through the streets brings you back to a time reminiscent of the 1930s and 40s due to its Art Deco structures that line the streets of South Beach. So come on down to Miami, maybe you’ll find that just like Gloria Estefan said, “The rhythm is gonna get you…”