I couldn’t believe my luck when I was studying in Paris. “I live here,” I’d exclaim under my breath while walking to and from campus over the scenic Pont de l’Alma, past the Eiffel Tower and its 20,000 flashing bulbs. Yet when I’d tell Parisians that I was from Miami, my casual remark would be met with wide-eyed enthusiasm: “The city dreams are made of! Take me with you, s’il vous plaît.” They dreamed of palm fronds and sandy beaches, daiquiris and famous DJs.
What warms me to the city, though, has little to do with the clichés of luxury, endless partying, and tropical paradise that attract so many visitors each year. That’s the Miami the Kardashian empire turns into a reality TV show.
The U.S. Census Bureau revealed in 2007 that Miami has one of the highest poverty rates and one of the lowest median incomes among large U.S. cities. Our local politicians are as corrupt as they come. Our drivers are aggressive. Our public transportation system is a joke. This is the reality.
On the other hand, few cities are as culturally diverse as Miami. Winters are mild. Beaches are beautiful. Debates are heated. Evenings are lively. This, too, is the reality.
It’s unclear to me whether it’s easier to define Miami by what it is or by what it isn’t; it’s an anomaly of a city. Over the years, though, I have learned to embrace its contradictions and, by extension, my own.
The principle aims of this blog are:
• to illustrate the people, places, and events that make Miami unique
• to editorialize on Miami culture: the good, the bad, and the perplexing
On the whole, the objective is to provide a local perspective on Miami, one that paints a complex picture. Of course, I can only speak from my own experience, and my Cuban-American heritage is oftentimes the lens through which I view this city. This blog will reflect that. Its name, ¿Qué Pasa, Miami?, is in fact inspired by a 1970s PBS sitcom about a Cuban-American family adjusting to life in el exilio (the Cuban exile community). ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? is entirely in "Spanglish," as is my hyphenated life, and the Peña family uncannily resembles my own. This article about the show accurately identifies what was so special about it and why it is so relatable to me and to other Miami Cubans.
I leave you with a short clip of ¿Qué Pasa, U.S.A.? in which Pepe Peña is caught off guard for a televised interview about Cuban expats in Miami. Enjoy, and welcome to ¿Qué Pasa, Miami?.