Problems of assimilation

When I woke at 4.30 this morning, I was thrown by how dark it was. I’d not adjusted to the one hour time difference with Jamaica. I went back to sleep and got up again at 6.30 (my usual 5.30 wake up time). I didn’t hesitate to put on my swim trunks and tee-shirt and head out for a walk. I fancied walking south along the boardwalk to the area near the Lincoln Road shopping and party spots. Before I got out, I met four ‘people of the night’ who were just getting home, not quit doing the ‘walk of shame‘. One young lady was opening and closing her eyes as if they had sand in them. Everyone in the group spoke in a deep voice: the effect of talking over loud music  for hours, I suspected. I laughed to myself and headed on.

I met two acquaintances; the lady soon left me and another man, as she ran ahead and we walked and talked. The man and I had only met a few times before and recently, but we got talking about my early retirement. He asked me for my advice about doing the same. I gave him my take, emphasising that he needed to feel confident in his decision and embracing the new opportunities that would be presented to him. He was planning to take over a business in Europe from his very aged parents, though he knew very little about the business. Interestingly, one of two major concerns was loss of ‘exposure’ and some ‘lifestyle’ changes that may occur as he fell into the world of ‘ordinary people’. Gone privileged access to people and places, etc. I understood. It was easy to envisage him as a very successful businessman in a few years. I told him that he’d get new exposure and may find new doors opening, or interesting or influential new people, in the most unexpected places and ways. If he found that the loss of ‘exposure’ was really bothering him, I suggested that he and his ego go and have a good long talk to each other.

Unexpectedly, I went further into an understanding of Miami. At lunch, I sat with two ladies who were both Miami natives, one black (in her 20s), one white (in her 50s). Both now lived in different cities, and had felt the need to leave Miami to get on with their lives and careers. They shared several similar views about some of the social aspects of the city:

  • The influence of the population of  Cuban origin (about 860,000 in south Florida)–who had much business and political influence in the city, but despite this, had a strong desire to return to Cuba to ‘take over’ from the Castro regime.
  • The capture of culture by large waves of near-refugees from regional civil disruptions and natural disasters (eg, in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Haiti). This mixed with Latin American drug-related funds flowing in to fuel the local economy.
  • Young people of many races living a life of conspicuous consumption, exemplified by driving flashy new cars, where they ‘live large’ and party hearty.
  • People living way beyond their means, or having ‘fallen off the cliff’.

Where do Jamaicans feature in this? I didn’t get a very clear answer and it did not appear that they were sharing fully in this characterisation or benefiting much from the fact that others in the area were making up this picture. But, there was some support for the idea that they did not mingle fully with the area’s population, living in ‘their’ areas in Miami-Dade county (and shifting increasingly northward to neighbouring Broward county.

I was struck even more today by what appears to be an absence of English-speaking Caribbean people present in the Miami Beach area. They may be hidden inside hotels doing various jobs, but judging by the hotel in which I’m staying that’s not the case. So, if they have been ‘shut out’ of what should be a vibrant part of the Florida economy, what is happening to them?