Surprisingly for a Brazilian I made my Miami debut proper only this week (that’s not counting a family trip more than a decade ago). Brazilians love the place – more than 755,000 visited last year. Brazil sends more tourists to the city than any other nation – recently beating Canadians who held the top spot until 2011.
I have to say I was a bit suspicious of the city. It was never on my to-do list. But after being invited by my father, a big fan of Miami, I decided to visit and I have to say that my suspicions evaporated as soon as I saw that beautiful turquoise ocean, the many smiles in the streets and the not-so-subtle local dress sense. The outfits there leave my fellow Brazilians blushing.
It was not exactly a cultural trip, the aim was really just to relax on the beach, get a tan, do some useful shopping and go to some nice restaurants. People told me about how dominant Latin culture is in Miami is but it’s quite surprising to see it in reality – you can get by with Spanish everywhere. And because of the huge number of Brazilian residents and tourists Portuguese is used more and more, especially in shops.
Brazilians are good shoppers and everywhere you go in Miami you’ll see a salesman wearing a little Brazilian flag on their uniform. This is mainly due to the fact that Brazilians spent $1.7bn (€1.2bn) in Miami last year. The local economic environment is another reason for Miami’s popularity among Brazilians. For those wanting to buy a place close to the sea, square metres can be cheaper in Miami than in some areas of Rio and São Paulo. There are many estate agents catering specifically to Brazilians looking to put down roots.
It’s easy to see many more reasons why Brazilians would be attracted to the city such as the familiar language and the warmth of the people. There is also a sense that you are not too far from home and, of course, you feel much safer than when walking in São Paulo or Rio.
I’m still not sure if I would choose Miami over Rio, possibly not. But I have to say I had moments of being tempted – the easiness and brashness of the city is attractive. I wouldn’t mind spending a few more days sipping margaritas on Miami beach as I make up my mind.
Fernando Augusto Pacheco is a researcher for Monocle 24