The Sun seekers of South Beach

At the beginning of the last century, the settlement started to draw the eye of the wealthy who, aside from being allured by the sun, wanted to play a part in Miami’s growth. They began to build mansions on the seafront. People of different descent and from distinct cultures started to arrive in Miami: the first mayor was an Irish Catholic, the majority of the shopkeepers were Jewish, and a community of Bahamians soon arose.

Urban growth seemed unstoppable in the 1920s, and housing prices quadrupled in just five years. It was during this period that the legendary real estate developer George Merrick established the first apartment complex, Coral Gables, which was soon followed by Miami Springs, Opa-Locka, and Miami Beach. Meanwhile, Carl Fisher built luxurious hotels and polo and golf courses to keep the well-off happy.

Properties were continuously changing hands – sometimes even on the same day – and always at higher prices. However, the land boom was cut short by a destructive hurricane in 1926 and the collapse of the Stock Exchange in 1929, the source of the Great Depression.

This concluded the first phase of development.

Cuban Exile

Miami was the first to emerge out of the crisis in the early 1930s, spearheaded by the aeronautical industry. The Florida-based Pan American Airways, better known as Pan Am, set the modern era in motion advertising Miami as “The Gateway to the Americas.”

New buildings and hotels surfaced, many in art deco style, in the neighborhood known today as South Beach. After the outbreak of the Second World War, thousands of soldiers gathered in training camps on the outskirts of Miami, many of whom returned to make their homes there after the conflict, contributing to the development of the city.

Thousands of refugees fled Cuba when Fidel Castro rose to power in 1959, increasing the population in some of the city’s poorer neighborhoods. By the end of the decade, more than 300,000 Cubans had reached the coast of Florida, a wave that was repeated in 1980. According to the 1962 census, the population at that point exceeded one million.

Although this migratory shift broke down certain cultural barriers and many ex-pats were thriving, there was an increase in racial violence among Afro-Americans. Other political conflicts led to a huge influx of people from Central and South America, converting Miami into an authentic gateway to Latin America.

The last devastating hurricane to strike this region was Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which caused enormous structural damage as well leaving many homeless. Nowadays, revolving around the trade and service industries with a mass interest in tourism, Miami has become the “Cruise Capital of the World” and has one of the five biggest airports in the United States.

The Gastronomy of Miami

Miami offers a huge selection of restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets. The local cuisine relies heavily on fresh seafood and fish. There are many small restaurants offering high-class American cuisine, far removed from the stereotypical fast food chains, while Cuban food is everywhere.

Miami stands out for its huge selection of Cuban restaurants. In contrast to other states, where cooking styles form part of the cultural identity – for example, Louisiana’s cajun recipes or the Texan barbeque – Miami has a wide range of gastronomy with diverse flavors and ingredients, which reflect the multicultural character of the state.

It prides itself on boasting huge quantities of fresh products, ranging from tropical fruit to seafood. And it’s no coincidence that the most prestigious cooking contest in the U.S. takes place in Miami, entered by many of the nation’s top chefs and acting as a stage for some of the most famous wines around.

Spoilt by an array of dishes, which vary depending on the stall and the restaurant, visitors can taste exquisite cuisines such as ravioli stuffed with crab and scallops, grouper with pistachios and mango, sushi, crispy duck with a caramelized vinegar sauce, cassava pie stuffed with lobster, ceviche, and, for dessert, pecan and caramel brownie., is like no other.

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