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Miami is two hours away from my hometown, but it is practically a world away. I live in a calm, beachside town in Palm Beach County. Prior to this program, I would drive down to Miami for only a couple reasons. It would either be to come to the Colombian consulate, take a friend or relative to South Beach and Wynwood, attend a concert at the American Airlines Arena, or to fly from the Miami International Airport. I had never toured University of Miami–where we are staying for the summer–and I had never really explored Miami as much as I could have.

Sunday’s whirlwind tour

In the span of a day, Miguel took us to more places in the Miami area than I had ever visited in my 18 years living in Florida. We started the day in Little Havana and Calle Ocho. We ate at the famous Versailles and I tried my first Cuban cafecito. Speaking Spanish to the waitress reminded me of how much I miss using my Spanish while at Duke. I enjoy taking German classes at Duke, but I miss regularly speaking Spanish. We also took pictures in front of the Wynwood Walls and visited an artist’s studio in Little Haiti. In the afternoon, we passed through Overtown as well. Before Sunday, I did not know that Overtown existed.

At night, we spent time at North Beach watching the waves. Some of the group members built a sand castle and others were excited about the palm trees. This reminded me of my similar fascination with the snow in Durham. This year I experienced my first snow day, and I was eager to build a snowman and take pictures of the Duke Chapel covered in snow.  That helped me understanding some of the group members’ reactions to a setting that is very familiar to me.

Notes about Miami

I had heard Miami dubbed as “the capital of Latin America”, and I had focused on the Latinx population present in the city. After going to Little Haiti, I saw there is a larger Haitian community than I had anticipated. In the Dade Legal Aid office and on the Metro, I noticed that the use of Creole is widespread as well. I had thought of Miami as a Spanish-speaking city that also uses English. However, without Creole, one misses out on reaching a significant part of the population.

Additionally, I had previously experienced the city as a driver. The traffic and driving in Miami would stress me out and would undeniably negatively affect my visits to Miami. Now I travel mostly via the Metro and walking. It is a more environmentally friendly option, I am not as worried about getting lost, and I do not worry about the traffic. The Metro has made the city more accessible and has made my experiences more enjoyable so far.

It was easier for me to pay attention to what is familiar to me, like the Latinx population and Spanish. Already this program is helping me step out of my comfort zone and gain a more comprehensive picture of the city.


-Paula Moreno