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Miami, America with a latin flavour
Tampa (USA), May 4th 2015

We can only spend ten days to get an impression of the southern part of Florida, before we board a cruise ship to cross the Atlantic to go back to Europe. Ten days to get a feeling of the state that earns a large part of its money because of the good winter climate it has. During winter, so called winter birds are flocking to southern Florida to escape the harsh winters in large parts of Canada, the USA and Europe. The winters in Southern Florida are warm and dry. Because most winter birds have deep pockets, Florida’s entrepreneurs cater to every need or wish that a winter bird may have. Florida may have little resources, but the sun is a very profitable one. However, Florida is more than a beach destination. With the Everglades, Florida has a unique National Park within its state borders. Miami is a bustling city with an interesting mix of warm blooded Latino’s and hamburger eating North Americans who call the city home. Florida has a high density of amusement parks, but you can also enjoy yourself endlessly with the huge shopping malls and visiting sport events. Ten days in Florida is just not enough!

Because we have only limited time to spend, we spend our days mainly in and around Miami. Miami is famous as an Art Deco city. Many of the large hotels in the Miami Beach area are built in this style. On Saturdays and Sundays, this is the area where you want to be seen in your shiny, new car. Beautiful people drive around in their convertible cars and show that picture perfect smile as they look around. This is the image that people have in mind when thinking of the American dream. This is the dream that the South Americans are chasing when they (illegally) immigrate to the USA. In the land where people are allowed to dream big, Spanish is the second language. Nowhere this is more obvious than in Miami. In seventy percent of Miami’s households, Spanish is the first language. You hear Spanish everywhere in Miami, but it is less apparent on Miami Beach. Terraces are filled with rich and successful Americans and at this moment, these are not the ones with a Latino background. Immigrants from different parts of Latin America gather in groups of their own background in different parts of the city. Little Havana harbours the largest Cuban community outside of Cuba, Little Haiti is the home of the Haitians and Little Venezuela is where the Venezuelans live. These people clearly keep their own culture alive, but they also seem to identify themselves with their new homeland. The Cubans stay Cuban but paint the American flag next to the Cuban flag on the walls of their stores. In a Cuban bar, you can enjoy a tasty mojito with a classical American hotdog.

A selfi in Miami's Little Havana, the Cuban area in Miami

In the land of unlimited possibilities, not everybody is able to make their life a success. The poorer citizens of Miami are largely concentrated in the downtown area. These neighbourhoods look depressive. The beggars and the homeless walk the streets and try to get some handouts of money and food at the traffic lights. This isn’t the image that most people have of the world’s superpower. Some of these neighbourhoods, however, are able to transform themselves miraculously into a place for creative hipsters. Wynwood is such area of the city. Ten years ago, the neighbourhood looked like a rundown industrial area, but due to the high quality and creative graffiti that fills the walls nowadays, Wynwood is the place where young and creative people want to be associated with.

One of the typical American activities that we wanted to do during this visit to Miami, is attending a Major League Baseball game. Miami is the hometown of the Miami Marlins and we are here on the right time to see the game against the Washington Nationals. It’s bloody hot in Miami (35 degrees Celsius and a humidity of nearly 100%) but that doesn’t bother the players and their fans. The stadium is covered with a retractable roof and a highly effective air-conditioning system transforms the place in a huge fridge. Attending the baseball game is great experience. It’s truly a family event where families with young children watch the game and eat tons of fast food and snacks. There is no aggression or hooliganism, but just a very festive atmosphere. People watch the game alongside with fans of the rival team and that doesn’t give any problems. People are supporter of one team, but in the end they are all American. The game starts with the American national anthem. Everybody stands up and many sing along. After the seventh inning, American flags are shown on the huge television screens again. The entire audience stands up to honour and support the military people oversees. They sing: “God Bless America” out loud. Patriotism is something to be proud of in the USA and baseball is clearly a sport that unites the Americans.

Its all about image in Miami's South Beach

After several days in and around Miami city, we move to Homestead; a smaller city at the edge of the southern part of the Everglades National Park. The Everglades is the most important wetland of the United States and is famous because of its large amount of Alligators. The National park is organised in a typical American way. That means that you can explore the park easily with your car. By car you can drive to several short and easy boardwalks, on which you only have to walk a maximum of a kilometre to arrive at a beautiful viewpoint or an interesting natural phenomenon. National parks in the United States are developed in such a way that everybody can enjoy them, whether you are fit or you have walking problems. For the adventurous nature lovers, there are also off the beaten track hiking trails and canoeing waterways. You can camp inside the national park on designated camping places and it looks as if it is all well organised. Unfortunately, during this visit, we lack the time to use all these options. When we go back to the USA for a longer period, we certainly want to test out the extensive infrastructure within the national parks of this country. When looking at the map of the USA it seems amazing how much wilderness there is still left in such a developed country. For now, however, we are glad that it is possible to get a good first impression of the Everglades by just a day of driving and making short walks. The drive from Homestead to the national park office in Flamingo is beautiful. Sandhill Cranes cross the street and white ibises, roseate spoonbills and wood storks are easily seen. The Everglades are probably not as spectacular as the national parks in the western part of the USA, but creeks full of grinning alligators will turn a smile on every nature lover’s face.

A typical American Diner
Street side bar in Miami Beach
A colourful wall painting in Miami's Little Haiti
Baseball: Miami Marlins against the Washington Nationals
A boardwalk in the Everglades NP in southern Florida

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