About 70 percent of the entire Miami population are Hispanics and Latinos, and within their communities, populations are changing rapidly. Brazilians, Venezuelans, Puerto Ricans, and other immigrants are in fact recreating the city, and the events that are going on throughout Latin America are affecting the changes significantly. See also this Lonely Planet video:
Journalists covering Miami Latinos are discussing not only the news items about Cuba or Venezuela but also cover unique story and news from these communities. Check out this old Miami joke: Latinos love to visit Miami because the city’s so near to the United States. Or the chestnut about that Miami is Latin America’s capital, or Miami is Latin America where the phones are working. And so on… Just see that Miami is taking pride in saying: ‘We are Latin American just as much as we are American. That is a good thing… Except when it is not.
Last month researchers released study outcomes that demonstrate just how terribly scary the widening gap between the rich and the poor has become in America. The divide between the richest one (1) percent (those making $398,000 and over) and the bottom 99 (!) percent has become wider than it has ever been in the last century. In the years 2010 – 2015, the income for the bottom 99 percent had hardly grown at all (just 0.4 percent) while the income for the top 1 percent had shot up by over 30 percent! So how is Miami figuring in this awful news? Well, pretty bad! Miami-Dade has actually the second-highest inequality level of all major U.S. metropolitan areas. The (financial) distance between Liberty City and Fisher Island has never been greater. So indeed, Miami (and the rest of America too) is indeed much like Latin America nowadays, but I guess that’s not exactly the way we should be going…
For a long time, Latin America has had a pretty bad, unequal wealth distribution system, if not the worst of all regions in the world. But over the last decade, we’ve seen that Latin America has experienced a dramatic increase of its middle-class population, while in America, the dismantling of the middle class has taken astronomical proportions. Especially in major cities like Miami. Since 2010, the Miami-Dade poverty rate has skyrocketed from 17 to 26 percent. But that is just the first part of the story. Miami, just like Latin America, has for too long relied on traits that are driving poverty and inequality, and the main cause is the region’s dependence on low-wage industries such as agriculture and tourism.
There are actually two pretty hard truths that need to be swallowed here. The first truth is that the Miami-Dade area is dead-last among large American metropolitan areas regarding workers educated for STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). This is the main reason for the area’s next-to-dead-last ratio of high-tech businesses compared to the entire workforce. Where also on earth is that region where the tech industry-science education ration is a chronic disaster? You’ve guessed it, Latin America, a region that accounts for a mere 3% of our planet’s R&D investments against 30% for the Asian region.
The second truth is, says Jerry Haar (professor of business at Florida International University), the fact that most of the immigrants that get to Miami are coming from the extremely tech-challenged Caribbean basin. Haar is in no way a xenophobe, and he understands the importance of valuable immigrants to the growth of Miami, but of course, he is right when he states that the skill sets of the area’s immigrants are basically service sector-orientated, while what the area really needs is more STEM-educated people and computer programmers
Miami-Dade brain drain?
Jerry Haar is warning that Miami’s highly profiled campaign to establish a high-tech campus is raising some red flags. Instead of trying to lure in big tech corporations and computer giants like Dell or Microsoft, the Miami area is infatuated with start-ups, and we all know that most start-ups can’t even sustain themselves, and to be honest, they are not known for producing numerous jobs as well, So in this dismal Miami scenario, where would the talent go that’s produced in Miami? Well, not to Miami, if there are no jobs! So Miami-Dade will be educating high tech professionals for other American communities, or for other regions in the world, just like it looks like Latin America is educating employees for other continents.
Let me give you another example of the dubious way in which Miami resembles Latin America more than the U.S: sub-par cop pay! Wilson Sayre (WLRN reporter) revealed recently that the starting salary for a Miami-Dade police officer is $47,726, a stunning 20% below that of a Fort Lauderdale cop. Shame on you Miami. Check out also this corruption story: some time ago, three mayors from the Miami-Dade area were arrested (almost simultaneously) for alleged ethics and corruption charges. Looks like we’re here in Brazil, but without the Bossa Nova. Have I already mentioned Miami’s reckless and rude driving? Nuf said. By all means, Miami should take a lot of pride in its great Latin bonds, and don’t forget we’re talking about the great continent that brought us Celia Cruz, Simón Bolívar, and Gabriel García Márquez! But the Miami-Dade area (and America as a whole as well) really need to give lots of thought to our increasing resemblance to the corrupt, dysfunctional character and face of undeveloped regions like we find all across Latin America…