Tuesday, November 08, 2005

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.


At 11:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And never was a more accurate group of words said. You have described life for a whatever thousand people in a county of millions of people. Five generations and I think I had just come to a new part of America taken Mexico sometimes. And there isn't any Alamo coming anytime soon. At least the Latin Americans sort of respect us. Or at least I think they do, I can't really translate what they are saying. I don't even want to imagine what life is like for blacks. Or with all the Haitians should I call them African Americans? White on, man. Can I use affirmative action?

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Sinia said...

El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. I went to Weslaco,Texas to train with the Texas National Guard unit there. You go into the Wal Mart and they speak spanish on the store's intercom . The soldiers stationed there do call for fire communications in Spanish and also give their mission/safety briefs . You ever go to the strip clubs down there and the strippers/bouncers speak spanish first.

At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

couldn't have described miami better than that myself. however there are some exceptions to your description.

case in point: I used to live in Doral (im 19 now) when i was about 11 and I truly felt out of touch with everyone around me. Even the kids refused to speak English with me. It kinda sucked. All that ended when I moved to Pinecrest when I was 14 and began high school at Gulliver. Granted there were/are some Hispanics living in Pinecrest and going to Gulliver - they are in the minority. I mean I feel like im in the states in Pinecrest. (i have family in newport beach and i study in cambridge (harvard) so i can safely say that pinecrest is much like the states). i mean all my friends speak english, most are white blonde and blue eyed and my girlfriend is the hottest blonde white girl in miami and wouldnt be much out of place in an area like wyoming.

but i still feel you. miami out of like cutler and pinecrest is friggin cuba. nothing against it, but its too ghetto and i just can't stand the fuck i can't order a fucking sandwich without having to resort to sign language.

but if you do feel nostalgic for the states i would say: do your shopping at Bal Harbour or the falls, grocery shopping at norman brothers, go to school at gulliver, ransom everglades or palmetto high and make sure you live in pinecrest or cutler.palmetto bay. i also have lots of white friends in miami springs - so i guess thats another alternative if you can't afford living in beautiful pinecrest.

btw aventura and the jewish areas of NE dade also count too.

At 12:27 AM, Blogger Dayngr said...

After reading your description of the streets in Miami I KNOW you don't live in Hialeah... LOL

At 12:35 AM, Blogger Henry Louis Gomez said...

I was always intrigued by the name "White Dade" when I had seen your comments on other blogs but I never clicked over to check out your blog. I'll refrain from commenting on what you have written here except to say that you are the only person that I've heard of that would ask for 3/8 of a lb at the deli counter. 1/4 or 1/2 but never 3/8.

Hasta luego caballero.

At 12:44 AM, Blogger Henry Louis Gomez said...

You know what, I am going to comment. I call bullshit. I've lived here for 27 years and I am fully bilingual. Yes we have a had an influx of Spanish immigrants over the past 25 years and those people have limited English skills and many of them may speak to a stranger in Spanish first but a lot of them will try to communicate in English when they know que no hablas español. I have a 66 dodge that is being reupholstered right now at a landmark called decolores. It's in little Havana and every person working there is Hispanic. I speak Spanish when I'm there because it seems more natural in that environment. But I have witnessed them in action dealing with "American" customers and I can say that everyone understood each other with no problem.

And as for Nordstrom I call bullshit on that too. At the time of your post the only one open was in Merrick Village, where my wife works at Neiman Marcus. I can tell you every employee there speaks English. As for the customers a lot of them aren't even from Miami or the United States. Many tourists including Latin Americans that speak Spanish go there. Of course the Dolphin mall is VERY Hispanic but again you have no problems doing business in Enlish.

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah but try to move here as a middle class couple from southern california fleeing the collapse of the tech industry and watch as your world falls apart.

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You need to meantion the part about the drivers. People here basically float ashore and hop in a car because apparently some VERY unethical people finance them. I risk my life commuting from homestead to hialeah on the turnpike everyday. I'm from los angeles and this is the worst and scariest driving i have ever experienced. I went to the aventura mall yesterday and saw a guy with a green shirt walking out as i was walking in that said "Attencion Gringoes. Viva La Revolucion!!" That REALLY pissed me off. Before we moved here my girlfriend was a bleeding heart liberal and I didnt really have much of a problem with immigration. We've done a 180 on our beliefs. I grew up in southern california where racism is pretty nonexistant. I have NEVER BEFORE experienced true racism like this. Everyone hates everyone. Whites seem to be the most tolerant here. Blacks and latins hate each other. I've had latin coworkers throw around the N word like it was nothing. Argentinians hate Brazilians and vice versa. Puerto ricans hate Cubans and vice versa. You get discriminated against and stared at for being white. My girlfriend and I both have worked at places where the white americans are busting their asses doing all the work while the latin coworkers slack off or even SLEEP ON THE JOB! It makes me sick. I'm not sure how much longer i can stay here. This place makes you prejudiced just to survive! This place is so totally beautiful, the prices of things are wonderful compared to socal but the people are about as ugly as you can get. This is the very last reason I EVER expected to dislike miami for. A warning to others - DO NOT MOVE HERE!

At 7:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I've lived in Miami since 1979 in the S. Miami-Kendall area, having come from Chicago originally.

Although Miami often has more in common with places like

Considering the fact that 90% of what any person says is either bullshit or completely irrelevant to me, I find it a blessing that most of them are speaking in another language. I'd rather be in a noisy restaurant full of Cubans shouting at each other in Spanish, than being subjected to some Anglo's (a more common term for us so-called "white" folk than American) semi-private cellphone conversation about something I don't want to know about.

I do know enough Spanish to get by, and I've found that most people are willing to work with you if you're polite and don't treat them like crap. There's plenty of assholes of all denominations to go around, what I've heard here is a lot of stereotyping.

Viva Miami!

At 8:48 PM, Blogger killerqueen1104 said...

Let's face it: Cubans run it! Miami would not be the world class metropolis it is today if it wasn't for Cuban exiles. We came with nothing and acheived everything; love it or leave it.

Additionally, Cubans are white. It's doubly terrible to be disliked by "americanos" because you're hispanic and disliked by other Hispanics because you're white.

At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lovee your article.......There is reverse prejudice going on in Miami..... You put into words what a lots of "white" people have been feeling....and by white I mean ....NON-hispanic....you could be russian....italian...french...american....but if your not hispanic..you are an outsider.
I've lived in Miami for 15 years now........and its time I got out...liek the rest of the "Americans"people who have left. I have never met more educated..yet low class people with morals in the gutter than I have in this latin population of miami.

At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Things are just reverse here. Other cities have "that part of town." The part were everything is a little different (Chinatown, French Quarter). Well, in Miami, "that part of town" is inhabited by Waspy businessmen and their petty wives and drug-addled aryan children. We don't go there because, well, it's pretty boring.

The rest is the actual Miami, a hot, bitter, wet bitch of a city. Breathing salsa and spitting hurricanes. The driving is horrible here, but it isn't because people "just got off the boat". Not everyone here has the protestant work ethic. Remember, just because you were raised to love your job more than your family doesn't mean everyone else does.

It's still the east coast, people, if you want idyllic picket fences move to Iowa. Oh, and BTW, "latinos" are from a whole mess of countries. A cuban is not a puerto rican is not a mexican is not a venezuelan is not a columbian. How would you like if we called all white people canadians? Before you forget, most of this country didn't belong to "Americans" at one point. At one time, none of it did. And that's coming from an American.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Sunshine Crime said...

In all the comments I have read there is a degree of truth. Some people love Miami,other simply hate it. Let's look back fifty years ago and invision Miami in 1950.Pleasant,civilized,quite.A destination for people to relax. Just the opposite of 2009 . The most obvious question that comes to mind at this point is basically one:what happened?Where have all the morals and principals gone?In the process of global evolution,I feel Miami has dropped considerably behind the rest of the world. That's just my two cents....

At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sunshine Crime you asked what happened to Miami? Thats easy.

THE 1980s.


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