Eda Aker

Eda: Oh, Miami — so you’ve lived here your entire life right?

Isa: Yes, I am a “Miamian” by birth and mannerisms.

E: Is it easy for you to tell who isn’t “Miamian?” For example, can you tell by speaking with me that I only moved here for my four years of high school? And that we probably don’t have the same experiences from Miami?

I: Yes and no. I feel like anyone who lives in Miami is from Miami, because Miami is one of those cities where almost everybody’s an immigrant and everybody has a different accent. There are also different nationalities and while they all kind of come together under the Miami umbrella, they have their own little neighborhoods. Little Haiti, “Doralzuela,” Hialeah, they’re their own towns, and in Key Biscayne, they call Miami “the mainland.” But there’s still Spanglish Miami mannerisms like saying “Dale,” “irregardless,” “supposably,” “printar,” “rentar,” and “que cute.” Spanglish is Miami’s unofficial language.

E: Jajajaja, I think language does largely impact how people see each other in Miami. I don’t think that I have a Turkish accent and I don’t think I’ve developed a Miami accent, but I find that speech is significant in making connections in Miami. When I first moved here, I remember my mother and I sat down in a restaurant. When the waiter started talking to me in Spanish, I was shocked. They were just as shocked when I said that I didn’t speak Spanish. The waiter then tried talking to my mom in Spanish, but she spoke less than me, so there were a few minutes of group disbelief. Finally, the server started speaking in English. Maybe my look fits the Latina mold or maybe this happens to everyone in Miami? Either way, I felt abnormal to the point of almost ashamed because I did not speak Spanish. 

I: I have been spoken to in English here because I have been told that I don’t look particularly Latina. But in Miami, everybody looks different. There’s no “looking Latino” because you really can’t tell, even by language. There are Latinos here, like my brother, who don’t speak Spanish.

E: Once you live in Miami, I guess you learn there is no Latin mold by language or appearance. My best friend here is Brazilian so technically she’s Latina, and she looks like Merida from Brave, very European. When you look at me and her side by side in public, an initial stereotypical guess would be wrong in determining our backgrounds. But I feel like local Miamians know not to judge by appearances because what defines our cultural bonds is not very clear at all.

I: I always tell people that if you want to learn Spanish while still being in the U.S., Miami is one of the best places to go. If you want to learn English, Miami is one of the worst. Not being able to speak Spanish is a little bit of a disadvantage if you want to do business here. If you don’t understand it, then it’s difficult to have natural conversations with people. While people can speak and understand English here, they may prefer to speak in Spanish. 

E: That’s true. There’s so many variations of Spanish here that sometimes it’s even hard for one group of Spanish speaking people to understand others. I also find that Miami is not truly American compared to Portland’s mold of American. There’s so much diversity in terms of wealth, race and everything else. I didn’t know this before coming to Miami, but Miami goes from rich to poor neighborhood cultures very quickly. That’s not usually what people think of when they think of Miami, but it’s an integral part of the culture here is that it is multifaceted. 

I: People may think that Miami Beach is the most “Miami” area, but I wouldn’t call it the “local destination.” I try to avoid Miami Beach. There’s so much seaweed to the point where the water can get brown, warm and gross.

E: There’s also an extreme amount of energy in Miami Beach. Somebody can be blasting reggaeton on their speakers right next to where I’m trying to listen to my music. It’s tiring at times. But I think that that says so many important things about the culture. People are very open in a loud and energetic way, and I think that that’s such a different vibe compared to Portland. It’s closer to the way that people interact in Turkey, even though it’s not the same. 

I: But Miami is a city, and from what I’ve noticed, there’s a sort of everyone-for-themselves attitude, but it’s not as prevalent in day-to-day life. Everybody for the most part is trying to fulfill the “American dream” while also retaining their cultures. And it’s possible to do so because Florida is so close to South America and the Caribbean. Even though Miami is praised for being a “Latinopolis,” you can tell by simply traveling between neighborhoods and districts that there isn’t a common Latin identity because there are so many different dialects, accents and languages. What’s strange is that there’s a common Miami identity. 

E: When you’re at Yale, do you say “I’m from Miami,” or do you say “I’m from Venezuela?”

I: I say that I’m Venezuelan-American.

E: But the emotion with which you speak also is indicative of your Miami upbringing. 

I: I mean, it’s very stereotypical Miami, but a lot of people know me as that girl from Miami, because it’s part of my personality. Like how being in Timothy Dwight College is a personality trait.

E: Yeah, I hope that with this conversation people can see Miami’s nuances because while it’s fun to joke about its symbols like Mr. Worldwide, that’s not the entire story. As with everything there is a sort of gray area in which there is no specific identity for Miamians except mixed.

I: I will say that it’s a very colorful gray area in terms of culture.

E: Especially with food! The food here shows you how incredibly varied the cultures are. From Turkish to Brazilian to Argentenian to Carribean to Haitian food — we have it all here. 

I: I never crave Latino food when I’m in Miami because I know there’s a lot of it. But when I’m at Yale, dude, I miss it. But what does being from Miami mean to you?

E: Being from Miami, for me it just means that I moved and lived here — in a place where there’s good weather. Well, interesting weather. The first time that I came to Miami, I felt like I couldn’t breathe because of all the humidity. I was like, how am I supposed to live here. The weather is the only thing that I feel is tangible and you can pinpoint without a doubt as very Miami. It unites us Miamians.

I: It’s always sunny for five minutes, rainy for another five, and sunny again. 

E: Fact: when I go to Yale I’m probably gonna get seasonal affective disorder because I am a Miamian. The thing that I associate most with Miami, or what I’ve learned from having lived in Miami, is that Miami doesn’t really make sense. But at least it makes sense to us. 


Eda Aker covers Yale Law School and writes for WKND. She is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs.