From the beginning, Miami has had a love affair with Spain. Its founding fathers wanted it to be a resort for the rich and famous. “America’s Riviera” was seen as a Mediterranean paradise, with Spanish-revival architecture present in the homes, buildings and hotels of the time. You can still see much of this Spanish influence in the areas of Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and The Roads.
In the mid-20th century, Cubans began to arrive in Miami and established Little Havana, which soon became woven into the fabric of the city. Just about everyone in Miami, Cuban or not, can enjoy a croqueta (croquette), empanada (dough patty with filling) and a cortadito (Cuban espresso topped with steamed milk) for breakfast.
Jamaicans, Bahamians and Haitians also make up a large part of the population. They, too, have provided cultural traits to the city, creating a uniquely Afro-Caribbean community. Enjoy jerk chicken and chicken curry from the islands in a number of restaurants here. Bright colours, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and an insatiable joie de vivre all have become hallmarks of Miami, and they can be traced directly attributed to the wealth of communities here.
It’s hard to believe that Miami was a rural trading post just a little over a century ago. Founded in 1896, many of the city’s original families are still present.
If you encounter older residents whose families span many generations here, you may hear a slight twang in their voice. Not quite a Southern drawl, that twang is an old Florida (or “Flahr-dah,” as they would say) accent that goes back to pioneer days. As you venture toward the outskirts of Miami, you may hear this accent more and more.
On the other hand, the influx of Cuban immigrants in the 1960s gave rise to a new population and a new accent. Several generations later, you can hear this distinct Miami accent almost everywhere in the city, even among non-Hispanic residents. Influenced by Spanish, consonants are slightly exaggerated. If a restaurant hostess asks you to “pah-lese” wait while she checks for a table, you know you’re talking to a born-and-bred Miamian.
Of course, the best sounds to look for are in the music. Popular music styles here are salsa, merengue, soca and zouk – all derived from the Caribbean and Latin cultures in Miami. You’re likely to hear these beats at some point during your visit, whether at a nightclub, a restaurant or even a shopping centre.