MIAMI—Spanish is an integral part of daily life here. In downtown restaurants, men in suits order cafecitos and huevos in Spanish before heading into their Brickell Avenue jobs. At night young professionals sipping on craft cocktails at outdoor Wynwood bars banter in their parents’ native tongue. Even disc jockeys on Top 40 radio stations speak in a way that’s distinctly Miamian, effortlessly cutting in and out of English, Spanish, and local slang before playing the latest hit.
Over the last 60 years, Miami has been the gateway to America for Hispanic immigrants. And ever since waves of Cuban exiles came to South Florida in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, the city’s economy and culture has been intertwined with Spanish. The local economy grew around immigrants who spoke Spanish (sometimes only Spanish), which in turn brought increased business opportunities, media operations, and tourism exchanges with Latin American countries.
As a result, Spanish speakers did well and built wealth, a fact that differentiates Miami from many other major cities, where Spanish is more commonly spoken by low-income residents. Here, Spanish is used across the socioeconomic spectrum. In Hialeah, a community just northwest of Miami with a median household income of $30,000, over 90 percent of residents speak Spanish, according to Census figures. In Key Biscayne, a wealthy enclave just south of Miami Beach that has a median household income of $121,000, around 70 percent of residents also speak Spanish.