A Miami State of Mind
4 weeks ago Nicholas Rodriguez 0
Swimming pools and movie stars – wait, that’s California.
South Florida is much more than its 663 miles of beaches. Yet admittedly, that’s often what first comes to mind. People around the world perceive South Florida as a subtropical spring break heaven, a vacation hotspot and a retirement destination. It’s 2018, do these notations still hold true, and did Miami always have this perception?
Prior to and leading into the early 1980s, South Florida and Miami in particular, was widely described as a rather large city riddled with crime, prostitution and drugs. Movies, such as “Scarface,” were an accurate description, but Miami has worked hard to cultivate a different image.
Pamela Stewart, a 66-year-old North Miami native, said when she was growing up she could see the beach from almost anywhere. Describing how beautiful it was, how easy it was to grab a swimsuit and go to the beach.
Stewart also said that when her kids were growing up, Miami was not an ideal place to raise a family.
“I used to drive my kids down to school and they learned to count by pointing out prostitutes,” Stewart said. “They’d count the hookers [along Biscayne Boulevard], ‘oh look, there’s one, two, three’ and it was normal for Miami. Truth be known, that’s the way it was.’”
When the FBI issued its annual list of the ten most crime-ridden cities in the nation throughout the ‘80s, South Florida made its mark.
Miami finished in first, West Palm Beach finished in fifth and Ft. Lauderdale finished in eighth for the nation’s highest murder rates.
Scott Galvin, a City of North Miami councilman, has lived in Miami his entire life and said he has seen the city drastically change over the years.
“I was here in the early ‘80s through the riots and all the crime, and the Mariel boatlift,” Galvin said. “In high school back in 1986, South Beach was ghetto. Going back and watching some of the original “Scarface” movie, that’s how South Beach was.”
Galvin said that “Miami Vice” had a big impact on the change of Miami.
“The evolution of surrounded pink islands, playing right into the “Miami Vice” TV show, which totally changed Miami’s persona,” Galvin said. “Changing from a scary crime infested place, to glamorous pink flamingos, ladies in bikinis and speed boats jetting through the bay gave rise to South Beach.”
According to statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, crime in Miami-Dade County has gone down, even though the population continues to rise.
In 1995, there were a total of 311 murders reported, 21,460 reported aggravated assaults reported and 38,318 total violent crimes reported, which ranks highest from 1995 – 2017.
In 2017, there were 729,274 more people living in Miami-Dade County compared to 1995, but crime numbers have still decreased. There were 123 fewer murders reported, 12,096 fewer aggravated assaults reported and 23,860 fewer total violent crimes reported.
Galvin said while everything has evolved since the ‘80s, he believes Miami’s reputation is still greatly based, or born from “Miami Vice.”
“Its cool, hip, the sun and sand, you know all of those things,” Galvin said. “Miami has changed a lot in 30 years and we’ve become a multicultural community. I love that there are different people from different backgrounds, with different foods and different ways of looking at things.
Galvin said that seeing all the multistory high-rise buildings being built around the city and the rise of Little Havana, Little Haiti, Wynwood, Brickell and Aventura is astounding.
Steve Riccardi, a 47-year-old New Jersey native, visits Miami often for work.
“I’ve been coming to Miami since the late 1990s for work multiple times a year and man has it changed,” Riccardi said. “There’s more and more people, different cultures, food and places to go. A lot of people up where I’m from just think of South Beach when they hear Miami, but man there are just so many different places in Miami to visit and eat at.”
Riccardi said that “Scarface” is still perceived as what Miami is to a few people he knows that have never visited the city, but he said he always explains how the city has transformed over the years.
“Miami has done a great job of transforming,” Riccardi said. “It’s built and renovated so many buildings, fixed the city and has made it a lot more welcoming for tourists. I really believe Miami has come a long way since the “Scarface” days and will continue grow and be a beautiful city that attracts many people from all around the world.”
According to Greater Miami and the Beaches annual report in 2017, Miami-Dade County welcomed 15.8 million overnight visitors who spent $25.9 billion, which were both all-time highs.
In an interview with Miami Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott said the increasing numbers led to a 144,800 jobs to the community and he expects more visitors in 2018.