About Miami and South Florida

Early History

The name "Miami" comes from a Native American word for "sweet water". The area was a concentration of water because the Miami River is essentially a funnel for water from the Everglades to the Atlantic Ocean.

Native Americans are known to have settled in the Miami region for about 10,000 years. Its most noteworthy early inhabitants were the Tequesta people, who controlled an empire covering most of South Florida.

Although Ponce de Leon attempted to settle the area in the early 1500's, his men could not defend the territory against the natives, so they kept to the more sparsely populated north. For most of the colonial period, Miami was only briefly visited by traveling Europeans when it was visited at all.

American Settlement

Miami was still largely uninhabited in the late 1800's, even following the final defeat of the natives in 1857. Then, in 1891, a woman named Julia Tuttle purchased an enormous citrus plantation in the area. She initially pressured railroad magnate Henry Flagler to build a line to the settlement.

In 1894, however, Florida was struck by a terrible winter that destroyed virtually all of the citrus crop in the northern half of the state. Miami, however, was unaffected, and Tuttle's citrus became the only citrus on the market that year. She wrote to Flagler again, persuading him to visit the area and see it for himself: he did so, and concluded at the end of his first day that the area was ripe for expansion.

On July 28, 1896, the City of Miami was incorporated with 344 citizens.


The 1950's saw Miami transformed by its neighbor to the south, Cuba. Mobsters were drawn to the city because of its proximity to the organized crime paradise of Batista-era Havana.

Following the 1959 coup that unseated Batista and brought Fidel Castro to power, Cuban refugees began travelling to Florida en masse. In 1965 alone, 100,000 Cubans packed into the twice-daily "freedom flights" between Havana and Miami. Later, the Mariel Boatlift brought 150,000 Cubans to Miami in a single flotilla, the largest in civilian history.

The city, for the most part, welcomed the Cuban refugees. Little Havana emerged as a predominantly Spanish-speaking community, and Spanish speakers elsewhere in the city could conduct most of their daily business in their native tongue.

The Cuban inflow slowed down in the 1980's, and was largely replaced by refugees from Haiti. However, because Haiti was not under communist leadership, the U.S. government was not as willing to grant residency or citizenship to the Haitian newcomers, and so the Cuban community has remained predominant over the Haitian community.

Since then, the Hispanic-friendly atmosphere in Miami has made it a popular destination for tourists and immigrants from all over Latin America, and the third-biggest immigration port in the country after New York City and Los Angeles.


Because of its proximity to Latin America, Miami serves as the headquarters of Latin American operations for many multinational corporations, including American Airlines, Cisco, Disney, Exxon, FedEx, Microsoft, and Sony. Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami are among the nation's busiest ports of entry, especially for cargo from South America and the Caribbean. Miami was also the host city of the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations, and is one of the leading candidates to become the trading bloc's headquarters.

Tourism is also an important industry: the beaches of Miami draw visitors from across the country, and the nightclub district in South Beach is widely regarded as one of the best in the world.

In addition to these roles, Miami is also an industrial center, especially for stone quarrying and warehousing.

Several large companies are headquartered in or around Miami, including Burger King, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Ryder.


Miami's airport is Miami International Airport, which is a hub for American Airlines and is served by many international carriers. Most low-fare airlines, such as JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines, fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Miami is connected to Amtrak's Atlantic Coast services, and also has several commuter railway systems: the Metrorail, Tri-Rail, and Metromover.

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Miami Map - Citizen USA