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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miami--A Latin-American City

 The Spanish-speaking Mecca of the U.S.

The first time I was visiting Miami, more than eight years ago, an Afro-Puerto Rican friend showed me around Little Havana, then showed me Little Haiti, and Overton, a historic African-American community. This time, as I passed through Miami before flying out to San José, Costa Rica, I lost my friends contact information after being out of communication for so many years, thus, I was on my own.



When I address people in Spanish, without hesitation, they respond in kind, unlike the Spanish speakers I meet in New York, San Francisco, and other parts of the country.  
The major thing that stood out for me about Miami is the feeling that I was already in a Latin-American country where people are very comfortable with their language and their cultural heritage. Spanish seems to be the predominate language of the city. Of course, with my constant work on developing Spanish fluency, I felt very much at home. When I address people in Spanish, without hesitation, they respond in kind, unlike the Spanish speakers I meet in New York, San Francisco, and other parts of the country.  Elena, a former co-worker, from Nicaraugua was telling me that in Los Angeles, Latinos would often say to her, “I´m an American - I don´t speak Spanish.” What is so wrong with an American speaking Spanish or four or five other languages, for that matter? Who says it´s un-American to speak more than one language? Elena would have never experienced this in Miami where Latinos, mainly Cubans, are in your face proud of who they are.


I felt good about another opportunity to practice my Spanish as if I already were in a Spanish-speaking country.
I myself decided to walk into a Cuban-run cafeteria, and the cashier immediately asked me in in broken English if she could help me. Sensing her struggle with the English language, I told her (in Spanish) that she is welcome to speak to me in Spanish like everyone else in the restaurant. This made her, her co-workers, and even customer feel good about my presence, and I felt good about another opportunity to practice my Spanish as if I already were in a Spanish-speaking country.