"An ode to mi ciudad" an Essay from Viviana Moreno
This essay was written by Viviana Moreno, Associate Publicist, Avery & TarcherPerigee.
When I decided to contribute to the open call asking what living Latine means to me, nothing came to mind at first. I was a blank sheet with no thoughts in sight to grasp. In a way, it’s difficult for me to answer these types of questions because I am so entirely entrenched in my culture, in my roots. (As someone born to Cuban and Chilean parents, it’s something I never take for granted.) Being born and raised in Miami meant being surrounded by reminders of my background constantly – so much so that I experienced culture shock when I went away to school in north Florida, and no one yelled Spanish words across a parking lot and bakeries with traditional goods weren’t on every corner.
When I returned home from school during the pandemic, I was right back where I felt most myself. En mi ciudad, Miami. This sense of place is core to my identity, and when I thought hard enough, I knew I wanted to talk about this city that is so full of, well, everything.
Miami is full of contradictions – some of them good, some not so great, some obvious, and others simmering beneath the surface. At seemingly all hours, traffic is tight and unforgiving, but not too far the ocean kisses the shore gently – washing over everything with warm calm. From the glitz of Instagram-famous restaurants (usually overrated, unfortunately) to the family-owned neighborhood spots that feel like a hug. From the high-end shopping centers to the curated thrift shops around town. Just a twenty-minute drive through different neighborhoods will reveal multi-million-dollar estates and then the cracking corners of gorgeous Art Deco architecture of generations past. And even when the loud and bright nightlife engulfs all serenity and burns deep into morning, there are also the early-birds catching sunrises and drinking strong cafecito to energize the day ahead. I guess the true constant is the heat and rain – summers will always be sweltering and drenched in downpours (worst time to visit; I will always stand by that) and the rest of the year is slightly less hot (emphasis on slightly).
My city and my Latinidad are so closely entwined for me, I sometimes can’t tell them apart. How could I when this is the place where my family sought refuge, and where so many others still do every day. This is a place where roots and culture are felt on every street, every “hola, como estas,” and every visit to my abuela’s house for afternoon cafecito. It is these small moments and everyday occurrences that remind me how fortunate I am to have grown up in a place like this – not only is my culture present but a multitude of others as well. Together, Miami is a city of not one background or story, and that is what makes it so special.
Needless to say, esta ciudad is a world of its own. Political opinions, economic status, and diverse perspective form wide grooves that mold everything here. There is empathy and antipathy and an endless clash of thought, but at the root of everything is the magic this city holds. Miami is labeled as a partygoer’s dream, but we are so much more than that. We are vinyl collectors, readers, coffee snobs, foodies, academics, thrifting aficionados, comic enthusiasts, activists, holistic healers – everything under the Miami sun. There’s no one way to be a Miamian, despite how we may be perceived, and that is the true magic. As they say, Miami es la ciudad de magia, after all.
When you’re born and raised here, it’s impossible to cut out the thread of Miami from your being. It’s too loud, too cramped, too everything – but it’s beautiful in all its palm trees, cracked sidewalks, honking horns, and inviting warmth. No experience in this city is the same, and each person here is a piece of a story that will never end. While it may not be for everyone (as my sisters remind me how I’m the only one who actually loves Miami among us!), there’s something that always pulls me in. We don’t have a lot of things (seasons are a top con – a little fall breeze wouldn’t hurt), but we make up for it in heart and soul.
Viviana Moreno (she/her/ella) is a born and raised Miami-based reader and creative. She is an associate publicist with Avery & TarcherPerigee and loves being part of sharing books with the world.
We are so grateful for all the colleagues who responded to the “What Does Living Latine Mean to You?” OurHouse open call. This week, we will be sharing their personal, heartfelt essays on Ourhouse. Stay tuned for more to come throughout the week and if something resonates with you, be sure to reach out to your colleagues!