CITY ON THE EDGE by Alejandro Portes


The Transformation of Miami
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 A perceptive appreciation of Miami and what makes it tick, from a pair of sociologists who understand that anecdotal evidence can be as illuminating as statistical abstracts. Drawing on demographic data, personal observations, interviews, newspaper articles, and allied sources, Portes (Johns Hopkins Univ.) and Stepick (Florida International Univ.) profile a city in which cultural diversity is a convulsive reality. Noting that Miami has become the Caribbean's de facto capital in the more than three decades since Castro seized Cuba, the authors point out that political events, rather than economic or geographic advantages, have made Miami a world-class entrepìt--a reversal of the way in which America's urban centers usually develop. After providing a brief history of the Sunshine State and its settlement, Portes and Stepick offer detailed human-scale accounts of the immigrant groups that changed a sleepy winter resort into a teeming year-round metropolis with a Hispanic cast. Bourgeois Cubans bent on escaping Castro's Communism were the first to arrive in force. While restructuring their adoptive city's socioeconomic and political institutions, these exiles were joined by less favored compatriots (the so-called Marielitos), Haitians, and Nicaraguans fleeing the Sandinistas. By 1990, 49.2% of greater Miami's population was Latino, up from 4.0% in 1950; by contrast, Anglos (the local name for whites) represented but 30.3% of the total, with blacks (native-born or otherwise) at 19.5%. As the authors make clear, the shift in the ethnic balance of power has not been without serious frictions--but they conclude that, once Castro leaves the stage, assimilation pressures could prove stronger than the ties that now bind and divide Miami's disparate communities. A municipal report that offers clues to what could be in store for other of America's border towns. A fine complement to David Rieff's The Exile (p. 773). (Illustrations)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-520-08217-6
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: Univ. of California
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993