Small World After All in Miami

Small World After All in Miami

by Stephanie Best

UN headquarters Geneva Switzerland
UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland

“There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.” These lyrics were written in light of the Cuban missile crisis. To promote peace and brotherhood, it was written so that it was easily translated into multiple languages. These lyrics often wiggled their way into my head as a kid. I grew up in Orlando, way back when annual Disney passes cost less than a single day pass does today. Years later, while living in Miami, Florida, a city perhaps most transformed by the Cuban revolution, I have come to realize the deep truth found in this childhood tune.

Pictured above is the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland in 2016. When I traveled through Geneva, as well as many other cities, I enjoyed meeting people from all around the world. This was what I thought I’d miss the most moving back to the United States. Luckily, living in Miami has afforded me the opportunity to continue to explore different cultures and to meet people from around the world. This is perhaps my favorite part of living in Miami. One probably couldn’t name a country or culture in Miami that does not have some sort of representation.

A World Between Worlds

Cuban cafecito on calle ocho
Cuban Cafecito on Calle Ocho

I often joke that my passport should be stamped every day. I go back and forth between a community college and a prestigious well-known private university. Every day, I teach English at the community college. Afterward, I head to the private university as a doctoral student and a graduate assistant in the counseling center. Teaching English in Little Havana is almost culturally reminiscent of my days working in a bilingual school in Spain. My students greet me with big smiles and a cafecito each day.

It is an absolute joy and privilege to guide them through the world of higher education in the United States. I help them develop bilingual skills and advise them as they seek their version of the American Dream. As I walk around on campus, Spanish is the dominant language. It is everywhere: off campus, in shops, in restaurants, and in the community. The culture is indicative of arguably one of the strongest Latin American influences in the United States.

A Latin American Influence

When I commute just five miles south of Coral Gables (a suburb of Miami), I feel as if I enter a different country entirely. The primary language on campus is English. A majority of the students that I encounter are from throughout the United States. However, I still find many international connections. I meet with international students from around the world and advise students in different cultural organizations. Even within a coffee shop as stereotypically “American” as Starbucks, Latin American influence can still be found at the ventanitas (little walk up windows) that serve cortaditos and café con leches.

miami little havana coffee cafe

Outside of work, I am able to enjoy a strong international culture. This is especially true during world-wide events like the world cup, or la copamundial. I began to enjoy worldwide events when I lived in Madrid. Miamians rile themselves up for their home country (or a country that they’re just a fan of) pretty easily. I was easily able to find a group of friends to cheer on Spain with me. The most jubilant experience I had during the World Cup in Miami was going to a Mexican restaurant to watch a Mexican game with my roommate from Curacao. She was wearing a Curacao jersey and I was wearing a Spanish jersey, myself.  

futbol football
I may or may not have just painted red and yellow stripes on a friend the day she became a U.S citizen in this picture.

Divides are Simply Small Hurdles in Miami

As we entered, México had just scored a goal and the bar was giving out free tequila shots to everyone. Each time México scored, this continued. The excitement was contagious, even though I had little personal investment in a soccer match-up between South Korea and México. It’s always great when something such as this brings the world together.

Living and working with people from all over the world has taught me that we have much in common. We learn so much when we take the time to listen to the stories that others bring to the table. “Though the mountains divide, and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”

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