Miami plays the role of regional hub for an ever increasing geography and mix of nations. Brazil, with key Miami ties, is one of the United States' increasingly most significant trading partners. Finding common ground with Brazil is important for the U.S. and its Spanish speaking neighbors and Miami plays a key role.
During the condo boom that began in 2003, 22,000 condominium units were built in downtown Miami, More than the prior four decades combined. Miami became known for glorious empty high rises with cautious optimism that they would one day transform the urban core.
According to Terry Pristin of the New York Times, less than 600 units remained available in April 2013 (less than 0.03% of the condo boom inventory). Certainly, many developers, speculators, and investors took losses, but the impact was clearly one of opportunity. Their availability as homes and investments for foreign-born buyers accelerated Miami's role as regional hub. The urban transformation has occurred.
In a city known for Hispanic culture and influence, Miami is an important connecting point among the Spanish-speaking countries to our south. Miami also plays an increasingly essential role in connecting our southern neighbors to the U.S., Canada, Europe, and beyond.
Less understood is Miami's role with regard to Brazil. While the traditional Western economic powers were faltering after the financial crisis, Brazil and other BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) were enjoying unprecedented growth. With their new purchasing power and focus on opportunities abroad, Brazilians bought condos in Miami and brought with them entrepreneurs who established businesses. All have tremendously enhanced the cultural complexity of Miami.
The term "Latin American" is a misnomer when applied to Brazil. Frankly, it is a phase that lacks real meaning. It has become synonymous with "Hispanic", referring to those descended from Spain or countries whose native language is Spanish. Even in that context, it poorly describes the vast difference and histories of those countries.
But even if the word Hispanic reflected the depth and breadth of culture, cuisine, and dialect, it would to nothing to explain to Brazil. Brazil is a former Portuguese colony. The language and much of the culture is tied to Portugal.
When trying to describe Brazil to friends from the U.S., there is only one answer that makes sense. Brazil is like the United States.
This comment always generates a look of confusion. Going further, the next question to ask this U.S. born friend is how they would react if someone said, "Oh, you are North American." Our U.S. born friend would not react favorably. Growing up surrounded by the red, white and blue of the Stars and Stripes, this is a country that finds it commonality in being, simply, American and never North American. Brazilians react similarly. To call someone from Brazil a South American or Hispanic is to signal that you know nothing about them at all.
The realization of our similar reactions then allows a chance to provide some parallels of Brazil and the United States. Both countries are roughly the same size, with mountains, plains, and waterfront cities. Brazil has vast natural resources on par with the resources that helped the U.S. rise to power in the modern era. Reflected in a 2010 Economist article, the countries were both built "on gold rushes and cowboys, on sugar and slaves".
While the U.S. population is 50% larger, the cities in Brazil reflect the same contrasts of their own. When flying over Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte to Curitiba to Rio de Janeiro, the contrasts are similar to a trip from New York to Dallas to Charlotte to Los Angeles. It is clear each time you land that you are in a very different place from where you just left. Beyond the large cities are towns, farms, ranches, vineyards, and miles and miles of rivers.
Looking just at Sao Paulo, these are massive, sprawling international centers. Each has engulfed cities and communities once far from their cores. Both are metropolitan mega cities of more than 20 million inhabitants and each has immense diversity, often concentrated in large ethnic neighborhoods. Most striking to many, Sao Paulo is home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan - at least 700,000 inhabitants - and 4 million citizens of Italian descent.
Why are these parallels important? U.S. born Americans need to understand the importance of close ties and relations with Brazil. Further highlighting the attraction of this wonderful country, Brazil shares our time zones and has a similar cultural and entrepreneurial spirit. It is less taxing to fly 8 hours to Brazil than a 5-hour trip to California or a 6-hour flight to Europe across multiple time zones.
A strong Brazil growing ever closer to the United States is in both countries' best interests. It does not replace the importance of improved relations with our Spanish-speaking neighbors. In fact, strong Brazil-U.S. ties are mutually important for us all. As our hemisphere flourishes and business ties increase, we will find it improves the quality of life, economic prosperity, and domestic security of all nations of this hemisphere. We all must make the multinational partnership a priority.
American Brothers. (2010, August). The Economist. http://www.economist.com
Pristin, T. (2013, April 30). Miami’s Condo Market Rebounds, Stoking a Building Boom. The New York Times Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
Schuchts, R. (Issue 2). Finding Common Ground. ImpactMIA. https://twitter.com