Miami: City of the Future
Sorry, Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo.
People were surprised when I called my book Miami: City of the Future. In the aftermath of the Marielito invasion and the Liberty City riots, the conventional wisdom was that Miami was finished -- ''Paradise Lost,'' ''not really a part of America anymore.'' I had come to a different judgment, that Miami was a harbinger of the Americas to come.
Time has proven that to be the case. Today you find immigrants, drugs, globalization and service-sector economies in Northern suburbs and Midwestern farm towns, but the most striking proof is Orlando. Some people back then thought it possible to construct a Fortress Disney-America, where everyone would inhabit a Dick-and-Jane universe forever; Orlando was their anti-Miami, their escape ideal. Today, Orlando's Latin community is one of Central Florida's most dynamic groups, but Indians and Pakistanis are there, too. Whether it's finance or franchising, Orlando today is in the throes of the transformation Miami experienced decades ago, from a tourist ''attraction'' into a world city with the world's stimulations, problems and opportunities right there inside the city limits.
LEADING THE WAY
All of the things that made Miami seem so un-American were actually what made it America's newest great city -- a subtropical Chicago, a salsa-flavored New York. Contraband and violence, along with immigration and the dreams immigrants bring with them, however they arrive, have always been as American as apple pie. That seems obvious today. Back then it was a controversial proposition, but the big truth was that Miami was leading the way into a nationwide reinvention. It was the first major American city to be reshaped by the modern globalization of world population movements, as well as of money, commodities and products.
The most important aspect of Miami that my book caught was its resiliency. Since it was first published, Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Elián have swept over the city, prompting the oom-pah bands of doom to bleat out their usual ditties. Miami keeps going. It's currently in its second -- or third? -- big real-estate bust. As sure as people pretend it doesn't get chilly in Miami in the winter, once the sky finishes falling the crazy-frenzy will start over again.
There are many things about Miami I lament. They are as small as the loss of the Latin American Cafeteria on Coral Way and as immense as the devastation of great swaths of the city north of the Miami River and outside the central core. Rioters didn't do that. Crime didn't cause that. Our movers and shakers did. As Wynwood is the latest to show, all that is best in Miami -- from the Art Deco district to Calle Ocho -- came about because committees lost control, because people started reconstituting life as they wanted it on the human scale. When you get here, there's always a here here, and that's because of the guts and heterodoxy of the people Miami attracts, not the palm trees.
CELEBRATING THE CITY
Some things in the book have come true to an extent I never anticipated. In the prologue, I called Miami an aleph of a metropolis. I presented Miracle Mile in Coral Gables as a kind of introductory display case of Miami's possibilities. Imagine my pleasure, years later, to find that Miracle Mile has become, several nights a month, a giant block party where thousands gather to celebrate the city's possibilities. In the book's epilogue, I related Miami to quantum physics and the stained-glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres. Miami, like light, is both a particle and a wave, a process and a thing. Where waves interconnect, nodal points arise. I still think of Miami, whether I'm thinking of its glass towers or its social relations, as a series of peaks and troughs the interference patterns create. We all know the pleasures and terrors that wind and water bring to Miami. It's the intersloshing waves of people that make me love the place, but which from time to time also make it scary.
Since my book was published, our country has become more Miami-like each year. It is going to continue becoming more like Miami for as long as I can foresee. In many ways, this is for the good -- in some ways, not. The important thing to understand is that, when it comes to the future, you can't pick and choose. You can make the best of the changes overtaking you, and also learn from them, and enjoy them.