Miami: See It Like A Native of the Third World
Welcome to Miami. The Magic City. Gateway to the Americas. And most recently: The poorest large city in the United States. That's right. A city long renowned for its sunny climes, Spanish architecture, and palm trees now also boasts the highest concentration of poor people of any American city with a population of at least 250,000!
Still, somehow this Poor Miami remains a secret to the average tourist, and indeed to the average resident of Miami-Dade County. We drive over it on Interstate 95 and past it on the causeways that transport us to Miami Beach. When we do drive through it -- on Miami Avenue, Flagler Street, Biscayne Boulevard, or any of the other thoroughfares that connect us to the relative affluence of the Miami-Dade suburbs. But we tend to do so at a fairly good clip, chatting distractedly on our cell phones, rarely pausing to take in the sights.
Which is a shame. Because Miami, the real Miami, is one impressive place. The city just on the other side of the manicured and gated neighborhoods of the Upper Eastside, just north and west of the Brickell Avenue gold coast, and just beyond the tourist mecca of Coconut Grove boasts a sun-baked Blade Runner aesthetic that's as unique and integral a part of South Florida's landscape as South Beach's Art Deco buildings.
Poor Miami has a look all its own, a look we like to call PoMi. Grass grows tall on empty lots. Barbed wire sprouts up everywhere, like melaleuca. Roosters and dogs roam residential streets. Miles and miles of iron bars adorn the crumbling façades of old homes and apartment complexes. Boarded-up buildings wink at passersby.
None of this would have been possible without years of institutional neglect, stubborn overreliance on a fickle tourism economy, and abject cowardice on the part of elected officials. Miami is the poorest and, we like to think, most desperate and depressing big city in the United States of America. And that makes us special.
So wander our cracked streets and feel the infrastructure giving way under your very feet. Stop to buy flowers or fruit from one of our poor but industrious street vendors. Spend an hour or two in the tropical sun waiting for buses that come with whimsical irregularity. Where else but Poor Miami?
PoMi: Not just a poor cousin to SoBe. And not just a look. It's a laid-back attitude that says: Local government hasn't a care in the world. Or a plan in the works. PoMi's not going anywhere. And you shouldn't go anywhere else. Enjoy your stay.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.