Welcome to Dade County
Welcome to Dade County. I don’t like to use the name “Miami” because “Miami” conjures up images of beautiful women, white sandy beaches and cocaine smuggling, not much of which occurs once you venture west of I-95. What occurs west of I-95 you may ask? Well, pretty much whatever occurs in any other major American city with one glaring exception: It all occurs in Spanish. I don’t mean a pocket here and a pocket there, or a charming little “Latin Quarter” we could put in the Fodor’s guide. No, I mean a whole, living, breathing 11th largest American metropolitan area going about all of their day to day business in a language other than the one written on all of their street signs (that is unless you count the names given to streets to honor campaign contributors, mayor’s brothers-in-law and local baseball stars). This is why being a Dade white person, or “American” as we are called here, is such a surreal experience. If you live in LA or New York or San Diego or Phoenix or any other American city with a “Latin Influence” as they so nicely put it in Newsweek, you may experience this when you venture into certain parts of town, but when you get back to Brentwood or The Upper East Side or Del Mar or Scottsdale, everyone once again speaks English and goes about their business in a manner you are comfortable with and used to.
Such is not the case in Dade County. You know how in some cities you may decide to lunch at your local Burger King and the guy at the counter speaks no English and you get really frustrated, but once you get your Whopper with Cheese you forget all about it and go about the rest of your day without this frustration again? Well, in Dade, that definitely happens at Burger King (based in Miami, actually) but it also happens when you get back to work and try and call a locksmith to fix your door. It also happens when you go the bank to open a checking account, make a dinner reservation, call your lawyer or get your car fixed. This is the price you pay for living in a city with 24-hour liquor licenses and 82 degree weather all year round. That and the hurricanes.
White people in Miami are referred to as “Americans.” PC politicians would love to say that “We are all Americans,” but if someone here says “Yeah, this American guy came in here last week and threw this big fit at my secretary because she didn’t speak English” they mean he is white. We are not so much a minority, but more of a novelty. Have you ever gone into a store or a bar in an “ethnic” neighborhood and realized you were the only white person there? That is what happens to me when I go to Nordstrom. Go walk around Dolphin Mall or Dadeland on a Wednesday and I challenge you to find four “Americans.” Drugstore? Absolutely. The DMV? Go to the English Only window in Hialeah and you’ll be out of there in under 20 minutes. Santa’s Enchanted Forest? May as well be called El Bosque Encontado de Santa Claus. Am I complaining? No. If you are American and you want to move to Miami, the county requires you to sign a waiver stating that you understand you are moving to a place that does not speak English, nor will it ever try and do so, and that you will not go into a tirade worthy of Michael Douglas in "Falling Down" when the guy at the deli counter doesn’t understand what “3/8 of a pound” means. If you can accept these terms, Bienvenidos!
The difference between Miami and other cities with large Hispanic populations is that in those cities, though there may be a lot of Latin people, the government and economy are for the most part run by Americans. I don’t necessarily mean whites, now, but Americans. In Dade, nearly all commerce and government is run by people from Latin America. This means that everything here happens pretty much like it would in El Salvador. Except the streets are a little cleaner. We had our mayoral election declared fixed a mere two years before the 2000 election debacle that made voting in Dade world famous. The fact that the U.S. presidency was decided by a voting process on par with the one that elected Daniel Ortega may explain the last five years a lot more easily.
What this has given me is a degree of empathy for minorities in other U.S. cities. If you are a Mexican living in Indianapolis, I would assume you experience many of the same frustrations we “Americans” experience here in Dade. If you are black and living in Orange County, I think you might feel much the same way we do. If you are Asian and living in Connecticut, again, welcome to the world of White Dade. Just colder. If you are white and live in ANY OTHER AMERICAN CITY (save for maybe El Paso, which doesn’t really count) you will never understand what it is like to have to live your life according to another culture’s rules until you move here. And not to Miami Beach or Brickell or Coconut Grove or anywhere else you’ve seen on the Travel Channel. Move to a numbered street in the triple digits and you’ll know what I mean. The point is in Miami we are a true minority. We are not oppressed since most “Americans” in Dade have money, but we have no real political or commercial power and live life according to the way the majority feels it should be run. This is why I don’t feel at all like a racist when I say that I am proud to be White or that I like doing White things. I like Latin people and Latin things too, but you should be proud to be what you are.