We’ve been invaded. The presidential election-year circus—candidates, campaign staffers, backers, reporters and pundits—has once again rolled into town. The March 15 primary will help solidify who will run in November, so for the next few days, all eyes will be on Florida—Miami in particular.
That focus is fitting because Miami represents the future. The city—along with Los Angeles and New York—is leading a demographics revolution that’s transforming the U.S. By 2050, non-Hispanic white Americans will be a minority in this country—though this has been the case for decades in Miami. The Hispanic population went from 17% in the 1960s to more than 70% today, according to census data. (These days, it’s not unusual to see the occasional sign in a business declaring that “English is spoken here.”)
The demographics shift creates a new dynamic. “Miami is the only city in the country where Hispanics are treated as first-class citizens,” my friend Joaquin Blaya, a television executive once told me. He’s right. Hispanics in Miami don’t need to demonstrate our community’s worth to anyone—the area’s most popular radio and television stations broadcast their programs in Spanish, and we know that our votes count.
In fact, Hispanics in Miami are getting accustomed to their political influence. In an interview some years ago, former President George W. Bush told me that the 537 votes with which he won Florida in 2000—and ultimately the White House—probably came from Cuban-American voters (he also had a little help from the Supreme Court, of course). While the current election cycle is causing at least as much anxiety as it did in 2000, today the big question on voters’ minds is not Democrat or Republican, it’s Trump or no Trump.
If the U.S. were a bit more like Miami, Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, would never have a chance of winning an election. Eight out of 10 Hispanics in the U.S. have a negative perception of Trump, according to a recent poll from Univision and The Washington Post. And without the support of the Hispanic community, it’s impossible to win an election in Miami. This city isn’t about barrier walls or massive deportations; Miami is about inclusion. It doesn’t segregate—it integrates. We all came from different places, so being an immigrant is the norm.
Through the years, the established Cuban-American community in Miami has welcomed Central-Americans, Colombians, Venezuelans and anybody fleeing violence or repression in their native countries. In Miami, someone is always willing to help after you arrive.
That attitude has helped the metro area grow to more than 5 million residents and counting. “Everything is coming together,” Jorge Perez, the real estate developer after whom Miami’s modern art museum is named, told me recently. “We’re finally not talking about being a great city—we’re being a great city.”
But another storm looms on the horizon: climate change. The blue-green sea that surrounds Miami could one day drown the city. The beaches I’ve visited for years are shrinking into the ocean, and flooding near the famed restaurants and bars of Miami Beach is a frequent occurrence. I’m bracing myself for the coming hurricane season—the canal near my house could very well flood my living room. Indeed, if we don’t deal with climate change—a topic seldom discussed by Trump and the other Republican candidates—my children and their children might have to deal with a Miami that is underwater.
Luckily, that’s not going to happen in the next week. Spring has arrived, and the guests who are sweeping into Miami for the March 15 primary can spend time in the sun, dance to salsa music and drink some Cuban coffee. My advice to the visitors: Leave your coats at home, grab your sunglasses and open your eyes to what can be accomplished when a community welcomes outsiders with open arms.
Miami is where many of us immigrants got a much-needed second chance. It’s a place where you can work hard and truly reinvent yourself. The presidential candidates get it—and that’s why they’re on their way to ask for our votes.
Welcome to Miami.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is the host of Fusion’s new television news show, “America With Jorge Ramos,” and is a news anchor on the Univision Network. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of nine best-selling books, most recently, “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”