First Cubans broke Miami, then they fixed it up better than it was before, says globalization expert Saskia Sassen. Now, she says, Miami is a model for cities around the globe.
"Before the 1990s, Miami was sort of a dreadful little spot, frankly," Sassen tells Foreign Policy magazine. "There was lots of domestic tourism; it was cheap; it was rundown; it was seen as dominated by the Cubans."
But in the '90s, Cubans' international trade connections helped convert Miami into the epi-center for "the opening of the Latin America," she says.
That international trade, along with a real estate boom fueled by South American briefcases full of cash, helped the city turn a corner and plug itself into an emerging global economy that New York Times techno-twat Thomas Friedman would later call "a global village."
In the interview, Sassen adds:
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In the 1990s and early 2000s, firms from all over the world -- the Taiwanese, Italians, Korean, French, all over -- set up regional headquarters in Miami. In the 1990s, there was also deregulation, so Miami becomes the banking center for Central America. Then the art circuit, the designers' circuit, and other things began to come into the city. Large international corporations began to locate branches there, forging a strong bridge with Europe that doesn't run through New York. That mix of cultures -- in such a concentrated space, and covering so many different sectors -- created remarkable diversity and complexity. Of course, the Miami case is rather exceptional.
She goes on to suggest that Copenhagen, Denmark, is fast becoming the Miami of Europe thanks to its international business-friendly atmosphere.
Sadly, Sassen did not address who is to blame for all of the crappy Euro-techno beats washing over Lincoln Road every time we go out for a milkshake.
Damn you, globalization.