Miami, Florida
United States of America

Introduction

Miami, city in Florida. The seat of Miami-Dade County, Miami is the largest city of a metropolitan region that dominates southern Florida. Miami grew rapidly in the early 20th century because of its resort and recreational opportunities. Since 1980, however, a more diversified economy has emerged in the city and the surrounding area. Miami’s population and economy are increasingly international in their orientation; the city’s connections to Latin America are particularly vital.

Miami is located at the southeastern corner of the United States near the tip of the Florida peninsula. Its climate is marginally tropical, with hot, moist summers and warm, drier winters and an average annual temperature of about 24°C (about 76°F). The city is situated along the Atlantic Ocean, and its geographic position makes it vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes.

Population

The population of Miami was 362,470 in 2000. According to the 2000 census, whites constitute 66.6 percent of Miami’s population; blacks, 22.3 percent; Asians, 0.7 percent; Native Americans, 0.2 percent; and people of mixed heritage or not reporting race, 10.2 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 130 at the time of the census. In recent decades the Hispanic, and especially the Cuban, population in Miami and the metropolitan area has grown rapidly. Hispanics, who may be of any race, make up 65.8 percent of the city’s people.

The city of Miami covers a land area of 92 sq km (36 sq mi). Miami is the seat of Miami-Dade county, which blankets a land area of 5,040 sq km (1,946 sq mi) and is bounded by Broward County on the north, the Atlantic Ocean on the east, Monroe County on the south and west, and Collier County on the west. Miami-Dade county had a population of 2,253,362 in 2000 and is made up of 31 municipalities of which Miami is the largest, followed by Hialeah, Miami Beach, North Miami, and Coral Gables.

Metropolitan Miami is the southern anchor of the Gold Coast Megalopolis. This 160-km (100-mi) continuous corridor of cities and suburbs is home to 3.9 million people and extends northward from Homestead in southern Miami-Dade County through Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, to the northern reaches of Palm Beach County.

Economy

Miami’s economy, until recently dominated by tourism, is increasingly diversified. Tourism still plays a significant role, with more than 10 million visitors staying overnight in Miami-Dade County each year. A sizable proportion of the area’s tourism is focused on the Dante B. Fascell Port of Miami-Dade, known simply as the Port of Miami; the city’s growing fleet of cruise ships has made it one of the world’s leading passenger ports.

Trade is another important activity, and the city increasingly serves as the gateway between the United States and Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. Banking and international finance have become major functions of Miami’s bilingual business community. Light industry is also important, and clothing is a notable product.

Miami International Airport is one of the nation’s largest, and the city is served by two interstate highways, Amtrak railway service, and Tri-Rail commuter railway service to Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. A heavy-rail transit system, known as the Metrorail, runs through downtown Miami, connecting Hialeah and the Dadeland complex south of Coral Gables. In addition, three monorail routes, collectively known as the Metromover, circle through downtown.

The Urban Landscape

Miami took its name from the Miami River, which in turn was named for a Native American term believed to mean “big water.” The Miami River empties into Biscayne Bay (an arm of the Atlantic) at the heart of what is now the central business district.

To the north of this point lies a series of neighborhoods and inner suburbs along Biscayne Bay, including Buena Vista; Miami Shores; North Miami Beach; and further east across the bay, Miami Beach and the ocean-side suburbs to its north. To the south lie the luxury high-rise condominiums of bayfront Brickell Avenue and the offshore island suburb of Key Biscayne. The metropolitan area’s huge southwestern quadrant contains Miami’s Little Havana, a predominately Cuban inner city neighborhood, and affluent Coconut Grove.

Beyond these neighborhoods lie middle-to-upper-income residential developments that stretch from the city of Coral Gables, which adjoins Miami, for more than 30 km (20 mi) through Kendall to the edges of the Everglades. The northwestern quadrant contains most of Miami’s black neighborhoods, Cuban-dominated Hialeah, and an outer ring of affluent suburbs, again reaching to the Everglades’s perimeter.

Parks and recreational areas line much of the metropolitan region’s coastal zone. These include the beaches of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, and Coral Gables’s Matheson-Hammock County Park. The inland zone also has a number of such facilities, including MetroZoo, Tropical Park, and Tamiami Park.

Points of Interest

Landmark buildings in Miami include Freedom Tower, Miami-Dade County Courthouse, and the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, an estate that includes a grand mansion built from 1914 to 1916 in the Italian Renaissance style. The monuments of the suburban ring tend to be hotels built before World War II (1939-1945), such as the Biltmore in Coral Gables and many of Miami Beach’s seaside resorts. The southern end of Miami Beach, known as South Beach, consists of more than a dozen restored hotels that represent some of the best art deco architecture in the United States. Additional tourist attractions include the Miami Seaquarium on Virginia Key, the Parrot Jungle in Miami, and Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Coral Gables.

Sports venues include suburban Pro Player Stadium, the home of the Miami Dolphins professional football team and the Florida Marlins professional baseball team; AmericanAirlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat professional basketball team; and the Orange Bowl stadium in Little Havana, home of the University of Miami football team and the Orange Bowl football game played every New Year’s holiday. The Florida Panthers professional hockey team plays at the Office Depot Center in nearby Sunrise, Florida.

Educational and Cultural Institutions

Colleges and universities in the area include the University of Miami, Florida International University, Barry University, St. Thomas University, and Florida Memorial College. Miami-Dade Community College, one of the nation’s largest two-year colleges, has six campuses in the region. Leading museums include the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, the Miami Museum of Science, the Miami Art Museum, and the Lowe Art Museum on the campus of the University of Miami.

The Miami-Dade Public Library System maintains an extensive network of local branches, and the library at the University of Miami contains more than 2 million volumes. The Miami-Dade County Schools system operates more than 300 public schools; approximately the same number of private and church-supported schools operate in the region as well. The city has a number of performing arts organizations, including the Miami City Ballet, Florida Grand Opera, and the New World Symphony.

Government

Miami has a two-tier system of government: municipal and county. Miami’s municipal government consists of a mayor and five commissioners elected to four-year terms. The mayor appoints a city manager with the approval of the commissioners. The city manager administers a variety of local government services, such as police, fire, and parks and recreation.

Miami is also governed by the Miami-Dade County government. This metropolitan government consists of an executive mayor and 13 Board of County commissioners, all of whom are elected to four-year terms. The Miami-Dade government is responsible for managing services such as transportation and pollution control that affect Miami and the metropolitan area.

History

The Calusa people lived in the region of present-day Miami before the Europeans arrived. Spanish settlers built a mission at the mouth of the Miami River by 1567 and then a fort by 1743. The Spanish had largely withdrawn by the early 19th century, and Florida came under the control of the United States in 1821. Although most of southern Florida remained a wilderness through the late 19th century, the offshore water route remained active, and hundreds of homesteaders settled in the vicinity of the Miami River. Conflicts with the Native Americans persisted in the region until the 1880s, but once they ended, a new era of settlement opened.

Julia Tuttle, a local homesteader, persuaded financier Henry M. Flagler to extend his new Florida East Coast Railroad southward from West Palm Beach in 1896, thereby creating the first modern overland route to Miami. The city incorporated the same year. Flagler soon built a hotel next to his station, and the city immediately began to function as a resort. Development proceeded steadily after 1900, culminating in a series of real estate booms in the 1920s. The city also began to mature as a transportation hub.

Two major hurricanes curtailed progress in Miami during the late 1920s. Despite the Great Depression, progress resumed in the 1930s as resorts were developed, and the city grew during this period. During World War II (1939-1945), Miami served as a major military training area, and thousands of soldiers settled in the area after the war ended in 1945.

The region grew steadily in the postwar era. After 1960 the rapid draining of wetlands along the edge of the Everglades, along with highway building and the advent of universal air conditioning, facilitated a new wave of urbanization inland from the narrow sea-cooled coastal strip. Following the Cuban Revolution of 1959, tens of thousands of Cuban refugees settled in the city and created a vibrant new ethnic community. Although Fidel Castro, Cuba’s new leader, soon terminated this influx, an additional 125,000 refugees, known as Marielitos, fled Cuba by boat from the port of Mariel in 1980 and were admitted to the United States.

The 1980s saw a transition from heavy reliance on tourism to a more diversified regional economy, thereby enhancing the area’s employment opportunities. However, strong economic disparities remained among the ethnic groups, and four riots erupted in Miami’s inner city during the decade. Hurricane Andrew devastated the southern suburbs of Miami in 1992, but by the mid-1990s greater Miami had largely recovered.

Miami also experienced an exodus of wealth and business interests northward from Miami-Dade County into Broward and Palm Beach counties. The city flirted with bankruptcy in the mid-1990s and continues to face serious fiscal challenges. In 1997 city voters turned down a ballot measure that would have abolished Miami as a separate entity and merged it with the county. County residents, meanwhile, voted to change the name of Dade County to Miami-Dade County that same year.

The city continued to struggle with ethnic tensions in the 1990s as its population became increasingly diverse. Strains between the Cuban exile community and the region’s non-Cuban population became the focus of national attention in 2000, when a five-year-old Cuban boy, Elián González, was rescued by American fishermen after surviving a shipwreck while trying to reach the United States with his mother. Under the full glare of the worldwide media, federal marshals forcibly removed González from the home of his Miami relatives after they refused the orders of the U.S. Department of Justice to turn him over. The U.S. government reunited González with his father in Cuba. Many Cuban exiles in Miami did not want González returned to Cuba while many non-Cubans thought he should be.

The Elián González affair deepened the divisiveness between the city’s Cuban and non-Cuban populations. Although interethnic relations calmed down after that incident was resolved, tensions remain, and some people speculate that they would swiftly resurface if a similar incident occurred. At the same time, Miami's burgeoning social fabric continues to diversify, heightening the challenge to maintain social harmony.