As a subtropical city and the southernmost metropolitan area in
the United States, Miami has always lured both visitors and
migrants from throughout the Americas. During its first
half-century they came primarily from the American North, then from
the Latin South, and eventually from across the hemisphere and
beyond. But if Miami's seductive appeal is one half of the story,
the other half is that few people have ever ended up staying there.
Today, by many measures, Miami is one of the most transient of all
major metropolitan areas in America.
Miami: Mistress of the Americas tells the story of an
urban transformation, perfectly timed to coincide with the surging
forces of globalization. Author Jan Nijman connects different
historical episodes and geographical regions to illustrate how
transience has shaped the city to the present day, from the migrant
labor camps in south Miami-Dade to the affluent gated communities
along Biscayne Bay. Transience offers opportunities, connecting
business flows and creating an ethnically hybrid workforce, and
also poses challenges: high mobility and population turnover impede
identification of Miami as home.
According to Nijman, Miami is "mistress of the Americas" because of
its cultural influence and economic dominance at the nexus of north
and south. Nijman likens the city itself to a hotel; people check
in, go about their business or pleasure, then check out. Locals,
born and raised in the area, make up only one-fifth of the
population. Exiles, those who have come to Miami as a temporary
haven due to political or economic necessity, are typically
yearning to return to their homeland. Mobiles, the affluent and
well educated, who reside in Miami's most prized neighborhoods, are
constantly on the move.
As a social laboratory in urban change and human relationships in a
high-speed, high-mobility era, Miami raises important questions
about identity, citizenship, place-attachment, transnationalism,
and cosmopolitanism. As such, it offers an intriguing window onto
our global urban future.
Subjects: Population Studies
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