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A personal journey to rediscovering Miami

Beach of Hollywood Boulevard

By: Caning Jaramillo

Stepping off the plane and onto familiar ground at Miami International Airport, I felt a surge of excitement mixed with nostalgia. After more than two decades living in Asia, the prospect of returning to this vibrant city filled me with anticipation. Beyond the allure of Miami’s rich tapestry of history and culture, I was eager to reconnect with my nephews and my great Venezuelan compatriots who had made this city their new home. The recent semester break had granted me the perfect opportunity to spend time together as a family and embark on this journey of rediscovery, allowing me the freedom to travel and immerse myself fully in the sights and sounds of Miami.

Hollywood Beach’s Boulevard
Caning at Hollywood Boulevard

With my nephew Alonso and his wife Maria Betania eagerly awaiting my arrival, we set out to explore Miami’s diverse areas. From the vibrant streets of Little Havana, where the aroma of Cuban coffee and the rhythm of salsa music filled the air, to the eclectic art scene of Wynwood, adorned with colourful murals and galleries, we experienced the heartbeat of Miami’s cultural landscape.

Alonso, brimming with excitement, eagerly showed me his favourite food spots in the thriving Latin community of Doral, characterized by its bustling commercial districts and diverse culinary Venezuelan offerings such as Hallaquitas de Maíz (Cornbread Tamales), Hervido de Gallinas (Hen’s soup), Ensaladas de Palmitos (Palm Heart Salad), and Pollo a la Brasa Venezolana (Venezuelan Roasted Chicken)

As we delved deeper into Miami’s history, we learned of its humble beginnings as a black settlement in the early 18th century. Founded in 1896, Miami quickly evolved into a cosmopolitan metropolis, attracting immigrants from around the world. Visionary figures like Julia Tuttle and Henry Flagler played pivotal roles in shaping the city’s development, transforming it into a thriving urban centre and gateway to South Florida’s subtropical paradise. Despite facing challenges such as the devastating effects of the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the economic downturn of the Great Depression, Miami persevered, emerging as a vital military stronghold during World War II.

One of the most significant demographic shifts in Miami’s history occurred in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 when thousands of exiled Cubans fled to the city, forever altering its cultural landscape. This influx of Cuban immigrants, along with waves of arrivals from other Latin American countries, contributed to Miami’s status as a vibrant, multicultural hub, where everyone speaks in Spanish.

In recent decades, Miami has continued to thrive as a global city, attracting investment, tourism, and talent from around the world. Its skyline is dotted with gleaming skyscrapers, its streets alive with the rhythms of salsa, reggaeton, and hip-hop.

However, Miami also faces challenges, including rising sea levels due to climate change and socioeconomic inequality. Efforts to address these issues are underway, with a focus on sustainability, resilience, and equitable growth.

As we said goodbye to Miami and headed north, our journey of rediscovery continued. While my nephew had to return to work during the week, I took the opportunity to reconnect with my great Venezuelan compatriots Ysaac and David. Each of them managed to take personal days off work to show me the shores of Hollywood city’s beautiful beaches and waterfronts of the famous Hollywood Beach promenade on the first day.

Another day we arrived in the charming city of Fort Lauderdale, where I was also reunited with two other nephews who live in West Palm Beach and Orlando respectively, Cesar and Juan Carlos. On my last day, Ysaac, his friend Miguel and I stopped at Las Olas Beach, a magnificent beach area with serene beaches and crystal-clear waters that added their own unique flavors to our exploration of South Florida’s coastal charm.

Amidst the beauty and diversity of the region, however, it was the vibrant spirit of Miami and its rich cultural heritage that left the most lasting impression on us, reminding us of the city’s enduring legacy as a beacon of hope and opportunity for generations to come.


The author is the Spanish Industrial Coordinator and Spanish language instructor at the Department of Asian and European Languages, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University Malaya. He can be reached at caningjaramillo@um.edu.my

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