Merida and Yucatan can learn a lot from Miami and South Florida.
When I first moved to Miami in 1982 to go to work as a daily newspaper reporter, Time Magazine had just published a blockbuster cover story on Miami, with the headline, “South Florida: Paradise Lost?”
The now-famous Time Magazine article centered on a growing sense of insecurity and malaise in South Florida’s tropical paradise, stemming from things like “cocaine cowboys” shootouts, the influx of refugees from Cuba and other Caribbean and Latin American countries, and riots in the African American community.
Merida, Yucatan is another tropical paradise where storm clouds are brewing on the horizon. But the White City can profit from Miami’s experience to keep these clouds from developing into a hurricane.
In the 35 years since Time published its Paradise Lost story in November 1981, some things have improved, while others have continued to worsen. I moved away from Miami in 2005, but I have continued to visit there regularly for family reasons. I visited again just last week. So I have had the opportunity to get glimpses of how things are going in the Magic City.
Crime continues be an issue as it is in any major American city. But Miami community leaders pay a lot of attention to keeping a lid on crime so as not to lose the city’s image as a haven for the wealthy and upwardly mobile from Latin America, Europe and many other places.
Another positive is that racial and ethnic tensions seem to have lessened somewhat from the years when I lived in Miami. Many things could be at work here. I’m not a sociologist, but I think there might be a growing recognition that Miami’s various groups must live and work together in order to survive.
On the negative side, untrammeled over-development has turned South Florida into a nonstop jumble of high-rise condo buildings, gleaming office towers, endless retail strip-mall shopping centers and gasoline stations on nearly every corner. Major roads have become parking lots jammed with cars moving at a snail’s pace at all hours of day and night.
Soaring apartment rental rates and gentrification are pricing many low and middle income residents out of the housing market. The influx of flight capital to purchase luxury condos has skewed the real estate market to high end buyers, forcing regular folks to look elsewhere to live.
In Merida, we need to prod officials to pay close attention to many of these very same issues such as controlling crime, restricting over-development and ensuring low and middle income residents have access to housing and services.
Security issues like kidnapping and extortion are crucial. Two recent kidnapping cases in Merida resulted in swift release of the victims and apprehension of the alleged perpetrators. Continued vigilance is necessary to ensure this emerging problem doesn’t get out of hand.
Careful land-use planning could help provide parks and green spaces as the White City inevitably expands and sprawls on its fringes.
Merida should take advantage of close ties with Miami that could provide opportunities for interchange between the two cities’ leaders. Instead of Paradise Lost, might Merida become a “Paradise Found?”
By Robert Adams for TYT
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