Updated: Apr 9
Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, I would had liked to believe that I was exposed to a wide variety of cultures. After all, there are many Colombian, Italian, and Chinese restaurants all near my house. It seemed to me that my knowledge of cultural diversity was about as good as it would ever be. It turns out however, that I was very wrong. Some of my most cherished childhood memories are with my father’s large family. Different houses, different aunts, and different cousins all with one thing in common, they never left their hometown of Miami. In fact, my father is able to trace his family all the way back to his own great grandfather “Tars” Horton, who was born around the mid to late 1800s. Back then they tell me, Miami was in the middle of nowhere marked by orange groves and plantations. This was of course, a Miami that I never knew. The Miami that I knew, or thought I knew, was simply my family’s hometown, a larger version of Fort Lauderdale with a university that they all went too and were hopelessly obsessed with. To this day, there is not one person in my family who speaks a word of Spanish, and I would have ever thought that there would have been any need too. After all, I naively thought, none of us live in a Spanish-speaking area like southern Texas. In fact, my grandfather, who was about as much of a Miamian as possible, always had a thick southern accent just as someone who grows up Tennessee. My father would talk about Spanish friends he had in high school, and the “Mariel” boatlift which brought in hundreds of refugees into Miami, but other than that, I had no idea what Miami was truly like.
This all changed when I started at Miami-Dade College. I was excited to go a school in an area that I thought I knew so well. An area where a dozen family members would only be a phone call away. Little did I know, my view of Miami would completely change. Upon moving into my student apartment in Sweetwater, my first realization came when I went out with my new roommate, who had never been in Miami before, to a supermarket to try and buy ping pong balls. I had been stupidly bragging earlier to him about how I could show him Miami, and that I had practically grew up here. The embarrassment began to settle in as we were both struck with confusion as every employee we asked would respond with “okay”? The first time we heard it, simply thought they misunderstood us, or they possibly had something wrong with them. After all, how could anyone be able to live and work here without speaking English? As we approached every person in this supermarket, we finally concluded that this must have been some type of international market for Spanish-speaking people. So we reluctantly went to a Publix, where the cashier had to find a costumer to translate for him. I was astounded. How could this be possible? No doubt I had a lot to learn about this new area I thought I knew. Now that I’ve been here for about a year and a half, I have begun embracing a whole new culture that I love. This most certainly isn’t the Miami that my grandfather knew, and most likely isn’t even the Miami that my father knew. But, it is the Miami that I have now grown to know. So, every morning when I am sipping on my colada listening to a group of men shouting at each other in Spanish, I can’t help but think to myself that I absolutely love this place.