South Beach is Not Miami

jitney books

Driving in a cab from the airport, it dawned on us that 90 percent of tourists who visit Miami never really visit Miami — they only visit Miami Beach — and South Beach is not Miami.

Fifteen million people visit our Magic City annually.

These people zip by the flashing billboards near Downtown and before they know it, they’re on a causeway to the beach, and they stay there, unless they’re going on a cruise. It’s frustrating to 90 percent of Miamians that we are perceived as Miami Beach.

You hear it all the time in the national media, whether it’s from entitled New Yorkers trying to define us during Art Basel, or the sports media talking about the Heat and South Beach. LeBron James is totally guilty of this crime: “I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” he once infamously declared.

Miami is not South Beach

Stop saying it.

Stop showing images of Ocean Drive when covering a football or basketball game. The national media appear clueless as to our real identity. Most of us hate South Beach — well, maybe hate’s too strong a word, but for the most part, it’s not our favorite part of town.

Miami is the Downtown corridor. Miami is Allapattah, Overtown, Wynwood, Edgewater. Miami is Little Havana, Little Haiti, Brickell, Coconut Grove. Miami is Opa Locka, El Portal, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne. This is where you will smell Miami’s multicultural sweat; where you will taste our flavors and see how beautiful and bright we actually are. Most residents of Miami go to South Beach less than five times a year, if that.

This rhetoric needs to be toned down a little.

South Beach is redeemable.

Obviously the ocean is beautiful. Lincoln Road and the New World Center are precious. And there are tons of little nooks and beautiful crannies in the form of bars and restaurants and retail splattered throughout the area.

The problem lies in identifying our Magic City. We are so much more than Miami Beach. We know who we are. #MadeInDade

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for almost twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor.