Not Your Dad’s Miami

Russian and Arab languages now join English and Spanish in the streets.

Florida’s population grew almost 15 percent during the last decade—doubling the overall US population growth rate. 

Miami, the state’s second most-populous city, is home to approximately half a million souls, including snowbirds, Latin American immigrants, and digital nomads.

All drawn by the irresistible combination of excellent weather, multiculturalism, and the lack of a personal income tax.

Gentrification has bridged South Beach with the mainland to form the sprawling city of “Greater Miami and the Beaches.”

On holiday weekends, the town brims with simultaneous events like Art Wynwood, the Miami Boat Show, concerts, fashion shows, and street festivals.

Driving back from Calle Ocho during the last President’s Weekend, I marveled at an unrecognizable skyline more reminiscent of Dubai than the place that welcomed me twenty years ago.

Back then, there were still remnants of the golden age that culminated with the assassination of Gianni Versace.

The mission was to become Urbe’s first foreign correspondent.

The increasingly popular Village Voice-inspired Caracas publication was annoying the new government of Comandante Hugo Chavez with a mix of irreverence and—especially—American pop culture.

My coverage of Madonna’s 2001 “Drowned World Tour” in Fort Lauderdale, FL

We were looking to expand beyond borders, just as the “World Wide Web” began upending our trade by birthing what we know today as the online content industry.

As I executed my first assignments, I watched with trepidation how my country’s government amended the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits.

The writing was on the wall. I embraced my new American life.

Around the time I rented my first studio apartment, a friend gave me his old TV set. The first broadcast images were of skyscrapers collapsing after being hit by passenger jets.

Though early 2000s South Beach still echoed its former glamorous self—drag queens hung out with bodybuilders on Ocean and 12th, scantily-clad rollerbladers handed out flyers on Lincoln Road, and celebrities roamed Española Way—change was in the air.

Season after season, many of the Art Deco District hotels that lodged the rich and famous in the 1920s, soldiers right before WWII, and supermodels in the 1990s crumbled to Mother Nature and the indifference of real estate developers.

The MTV reality show starlet replaced the movie star. Rowdy spring breakers, online influencers, and crypto bros followed.

In Alton Road, a party-kid-turned-middle-aged-dad reminisced about Junior Vasquez’s and Tracy Young’s “dope” music sets of yesteryear at Level and Crobar. The party was officially over.

I became an exile yet again. I was sad to leave good friends and a promising career in hospitality behind. But I had to nurse a chronic tropical hangover and return to my roots as a writer—this time in English.

Three years later, I came back as a visitor. I was ecstatic about the warm weather after a ferocious New York City winter. I shed my coat while skipping like a madman upon landing. The Cuban ladies who sold cafecito in the airport terminal must’ve thought I was loco.

One of my first visits to Miami as a tourist circa 2007

I’d witnessed the city struggle to regain footing on every subsequent trip since. Including during the pandemic, when the local authorities’ laxity might’ve attracted some of the ensuing holiday lawlessness we see in the news today.

But things are finally falling into place once again. Miami seems to be maturing into a world capital where development is ubiquitous and Russian and Arab languages join English and Spanish in the streets.

Old and new friends from around the world met at the heart of Little Havana this winter.

Gays, moms, Cuban refugees—and everyone in between!—danced away and sang along in the street to Miami Sound Machine’s “Conga” and Will Smith’s “Miami.”

Then, the sun beautifully set in this perfectly-unperfect Southern Florida piece of the American Dream.

5 LGBTQ+ Prides Around the World

Five hot spots in the world, how they celebrate Pride Month, and what it all means.

It’s that time of the year again. 

The celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally+ acceptance, achievements and legal rights is here. 

The event, which takes place in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots, has grown into a global phenomenon. 

And, as the US and some parts of the world (d)evolve, some of these events continue to be part festivity and part resistance. 

Here’s how I have experienced them in five global cities and my expectations for this year and beyond.

1. Miami Beach:

The State of Florida and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs sponsor Miami Beach Pride.

Its mission: “to envision, plan and execute a roster of events and activities as diverse as the community itself.”

And, like everything else in this part of the world, the parade through Ocean Drive has a bright and tropical flavor.

In late March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, banning public teachers from “holding classroom instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity”—from kindergarten through 3rd grade.

The Trevor Project, and others, have criticized the bill, arguing that it erases LGBTQ identity, history, culture and students themselves.

They’ve also cited studies that show that LGBTQ youth face higher health and suicide risks than their straight counterparts and that the lack of safe spaces could exacerbate the trend.  

2. Copenhagen

Copenhagen Gay Pride dubs itself “Denmark’s largest human rights (and LGBTQ) festival” and the Danish pride themselves on being the first country to recognize same-sex unions.

The overall community embraces the celebration. It departs from Frederiksberg Town Hall, culminating with an open-air concert at Copenhagen City Hall Square.

The progressive Danish have been keenly aware of Russia’s law “for the Purpose of Protecting Children from Information Advocating for a Denial of Traditional Family Values,” also known as “gay propaganda law” and “anti-gay law.”

Some of the pride festival’s kiosks displayed the “Gay Clown Putin” meme in what I see as an act of resistance.  

3. London

Pride in London is the UK’s most prominent. Its mission: “to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and campaign for the freedoms that will allow them to live their lives on a genuinely equal footing.” 

The event emphasizes the inclusion of “every race, faith and disability status.” The parade starts at Hyde Park Corner, continues to Piccadilly Circus, and culminates with a big Trafalgar Square party.

The United Kingdom has come a long way since the 1952 prosecution of WWII codebreaker Alan Turing for “homosexual acts.” 

In 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for the “appalling treatment.” Despite being hailed a hero by King George VI for helping defeat the Nazis, Turing died a “criminal” just for being a gay man. 

In 2021, the Bank of England featured him in the new £50 notes.

4. Amsterdam

Pride Amsterdam‘s focus for 2022, “My Gender, My Pride,” seeks to broaden Gay Pride’s traditional plea from “being allowed to love who we want” to “be allowed to be how we feel.” 

Another progressive Northern European country where Pride is a city-wide affair. The parade takes place on boats over the canals, and everyone, from kids to grandmas (who place their chairs on the front porches of their homes), participates.

The Netherlands has been one of the most progressive nations regarding LGBTQ+ rights.

The country legalized same-sexual activity in 1811. In 1973, it declassified gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and lifted a ban on the military.

The Equal Treatment Act of 1994 banned discrimination on account of sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations, extending it in 2019 to include discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

5. New York

NYC Pride organizes Heritage of Pride, an event “to gather and engage in activism, protest, celebration, and advocacy.” 

Its mission: is to work towards a future “where all people have equal rights under the law,” which still is a goal in the US. 

Historically, the parade has started in midtown, working its way down through Fifth Avenue and finalizing on the West Village, near the historic Stonewall Inn.

As Pride has gone mainstream, and brands wrap themselves in rainbow flags, some Queer Activists have criticized what they see as an over-commercialization of the event, organizing alternative marches without corporate sponsorships under the motto “it’s a march, not a parade.”

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