Miami is Latin America’s Sanctuary

As political instability continues to loom over South and Central America, Miami’s role as the main entry point for Latin immigrants continues to grow. Miami’s past absorbence of significant immigrant waves from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti during the mid to latter 20th century is well documented. However, Miami’s current role as a gateway to those fleeing strife and insecurity in their homelands has expanded and diversified.

The recent re-election of Hugo Chavez has set an ominous Socialist mechanism into motion in the oil-rich South American nation. Mr. Chavez has forcefully seized private lands, marginalized opposition to him, and seeks to nationalize all major utility companies and the oil industry. This gradual dissolution of the private sector is forcing the upper and middle classes to either accept the status quo or get out. Many of the wealthiest Venezuelans are already looking to South Florida, particularly Miami, as a way to security.

The pattern is set in history. The professional and educated classes leave and settle first. They set up their businesses as best as they can and purchase property. The middle classes soon follow. They compose the employee pool for the prior arrivals to hire from as well as the buyers market for the products and services being sold by the recent arrivals. In Miami, this happened from the 1960’s to the 1990’s primarily with the Cuban and Nicaraguan communities.

With the Spanish speaking foundation already set, new arrivals such as Venezuelans can feel uninhibited in their business practices. Already, Miami is home to the most foreign-born nationals of any major city in the world. This constitutes a sociological phenomenon that merits the highest level of attention. Venezuela is not the only unstable Latin American country that continues to emit waves of immigrants to Miami.

Since Miami is situated closer to Latin America than any other major U.S. city, has a massive Spanish-speaking population, and a vibrant economy, all other nations find the city an appealing sanctuary. Already, Miami is home to large communities of almost every single Latin and Central American country as well as Caribbean. The instability plaguing Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia are all leading to continued immigration to Miami. Argentina recently recovered from economic collapse but has yet to fully get back on its feet. Miami saw a substantial increase in immigration from Argentina, and subsequently, a rise in Argentine-run businesses—restaurants, bakeries, butchers, etc. Only Chile has seen relatively constant stability. Yet, there is still a large Chilean community in the city.

This pattern of constant instability has led to significant emigration for our continental neighbor to the south. Consequently, America’s southernmost metropolis has become the preferred sanctuary for South Americans fleeing civil strife and economic instability. Immigrants, as is clearly known from U.S. history, come with boundless ambition and determination. They work hard, build businesses, and add depth to the city’s political climate. They serve to further separate Miami from all other major urban centers in the hemisphere. Because of them Miami is the hemisphere’s only truly bilingual city, has the largest foreign born population in the world, and has a culture unlike any other U.S. city.

Miami’s residents are concerned with what happens in Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and other Latin nations because events there affect the city. Nowhere else in the U.S. are city residents so preoccupied with hemispheric politics. Nowhere else in the U.S. are residents so open to change. Nowhere else in the U.S. can one hear, on a regular basis, every Spanish accent in the Hemisphere. Miami, the city on the edge of the continent, is truly one of a kind. As nation heads continue to negotiate the terms of an FTAA agreement, Miami continues to push to be the home of the secretariat. Should the FTAA come into existence and Miami be its home, then the city will hold the political and economic torch of the hemisphere. Something many claim is already the case.

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2 responses to “Miami is Latin America’s Sanctuary

  1. Je me permets de psteor ici pour la premie8re fois afin de re9pondre e0 Japhy.Certes, il y avait dans le mouvement de la Beat Generation une immense remise en question de l’ordre socio-politique.Mais il n’y avait pas que e7a. Parler de Kerouac uniquement sous cet angle me semble d’autant plus re9ducteur que sa pense9e politique a e9te9 (mal) interpre9te9e et re9interpre9te9e, au point qu’il a fini lui-meame par afficher sa distance avec un mouvement les hippies qui se re9clamait pourtant de lui.Surtout, je crois que l’auteur de ce blog a bien compris une chose : les beatniks ne se comprennent que par le mouvement, la mobilite9.

    • Brilliant discussion. However, I feel you have misesd out one more crucial categorisation the temporality of protest camps as on-going communities as opposed to protest camps as temporary autonomous zone. For example, Greenham Common and the Occupy protests also attempt to function as continuous experiments in alternative communities in ways which the Climate Camps and the anti-globalisation camps did not. In fact, Climate Camp attempted to be an experiment in alternative living but many acknowledged that it was precisely its nature as a temporary exhibit which impacting its failure to succeed in this regard and this was one of the most compelling reasons for its eventual dissolution. Temporary autonomous zones are thus experiments in utopia Baudrillardian spectacles and advertisements for egalitarian societies which rarely have to combat the nitty-gritty unfortunalities of lived community. Temporary zones rarely have time for informal hierarchies to develop before they are dissolved whereas permanent zones must recognise and attempt to deal with them in ways which place existential pressure on the collective. What kind of informal hierachies tend to emerge in permanent camps which do not have time to manifest in temporary ones? In her seminal novel The Dispossed’, Ursula LeGuin identifies knowledge, experience, age and social capital such as charm and charisma and the ability to constructively leverage a social network as being typical of informal hierachies which tend to develop in permanent horizontal societies this includes protests camps. In addition to these, I would add that hierarchies predicated around pre-existing privileges tend to carry over into permanent protest camps for example, witness the failure of OccupyGlasgow and OccupyEdinburgh to deal with allegations of sexism within the movement, or the failure of some of the occupations in America to combat race-related segregation. Temporary zones, meanwhile, may have similar problems for entirely different reasons the climate camp movement for example was mainly white and middle-class, probably due to the failure of the movement to frame climate change as a black or working-class issue but segregation never emerged as a problem within the climate camp movement as it has in America, and never had to be dealt with in the same way that many occupies are now having to face real-world issues of class and privilege. In addition to these five categories, I would suggest two additional geographic factors are important in influencing the makeup of a protest camp both of which are broadly concerned with the physical ability for wider society to engage with them.On a macro-level, a protest camp can never aim to be completely isolated from its parent society in particular, its constituents must come from somewhere and must have somewhere to go on to if their aims have been met and many constituents may have jobs or families they must travel to and from. Thus, protest camps have been most successful in big cities Seattle in ’99, to use a typical example, succeeded, however briefly, in its aims in ways which many anti-G8 demonstrations did not and this may be influenced by the fact that G8 Summits have tended to be held in small, isolated rural areas. To use more recent examples, the climate camps in Scotland were not as well-attended as the climate camps in England the climate camps in London proper were attended best of all and this had clear implications for the ability of the movement to spread its ideas.On a smaller scale, however, the physical micro-geographies of a protest camp also play a vitally important role in determining its makeup. In the past, protest camps have often had unashamedly radical aims matched by radical tactics. As this combination was seen as posing a threat to the status quo many protest camps most notably the climate camps and anti-globilisation convergences have faced repression from the authorities. This has often lead to elaborate physical defences but these defences walls and gates have also had another, possibly unintended consequence. By clearly delimiting a well-defined geographic boundary between the inside and the outside, these camps have been incredibly effective at differentiating between the autonomous, egalitarian, consensus-based space within and the hierachical, coercive land without. This has had two primary effects firstly, individuals who do not identify with the groups they perceive as being in control of the space within the camp have felt disempowered from entering this may be another key factor behind the socioeconomic makeup of the climate camps, for instance. Secondly, inhabitants of walled camps have generally been much more succesful at creating the autonomous spaces they wish to imagine climate camp, for instance, was able to rigorously enforce a safer spaces policy without any recourse to violence or the threat of violence in ways which many Occupy camps have not. In addition to the enforcement of safer spaces however, many walled camps have seemed to have much greater success in ensuring that the resources that the camp provides have been used to meet its indended purposes rather than redirected by minorities outside of the movement towards other ends. Acquisitive crime, additionally, appears to be much lower in walled camps despite the fact that it would probably be about as easy to steal from either walled- or non-walled camps.Many occupy camps, in comparison, have seen fit to dispense with walls and gates. Again, this had had two clear effects firstly, the number of day-visitors and drop-ins has been vastly greater than the number of temporary visitors to the climate camps even accounting for disparaties in location (some climate camps, remember have been in similar locations to occupy camps) and this had a concurrent impact on both financial and logisitical donations received as well and, presumably, has greatly increased the extent to which occupy has been able to effectively disseminate its ideas. On the other hand, however, many occupy camps have found it very difficult to create or enforce a safer spaces policy and many have resorted to the threat of violence (members of OLSX for example has threatened to involve the police on numerous occasions to resolve disputes) in order to do what they perceive as necessary to keep themselves safe up to and including using violence itself.

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