About Miami, Florida
By: Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. | Trademark Attorney
Natives have been living in Florida for over 14,000 years.
Juan Ponce de Leon “discovered” Florida for the Europeans in 1513 and named it “La Florida” upon seeing all the flowers. It was the first (present-day) U.S. area that was settled by Europeans. Spain first attempted to settle in the Pensacola region but it was mostly abandoned by 1561. In 1565, a settlement in St. Augustine was established. It would go on to become the oldest and most continuous European settlement in North America. Spain encouraged enslaved Africans to seek refuge in St. Augustine. They used this population to build a militia to defend against British and French attacks. Spain ultimately traded Florida to the British in exchange for control of Havana. Spain regained Florida after the British lost the American Revolution. However, it became too much to defend and it was ceded to the United States in 1821.
Miami, Florida also has an interesting past. It is the only major city that was founded by a woman, Julia Tuttle. Its name derives from the Miami River, Lake Okeechobee's original name, and the surrounding Natives. The Mayami people who lived around Lake Mayaimi (now Lake Okeechobee) lived in groups of 40 or less, and lived off of Lake Mayaimi. After repeated raids, many died or were sold into slavery. Any survivors were likely evacuated to Cuba in the 1700s.
In the 1980s, cocaine dominated the city. Cocaine increased with new accessibility, largely from Mexico and Colombia. Griselda Blanco was the main cocaine drug lord in Miami. There were countless dealers, who eventually became collectively referred to as the “Cocaine Cowboys.” They used their drug money to pay off lawyers, judges, and cops. One could get cocaine nearly anywhere—clubs, restaurants, street corners, and schools. The increase of the drug trade in Miami increased the drug wars, crimes, violence, and murders.
Another dark aspect of the city at the time involved race relations. Miami was a diverse city composed mainly of African Americans, Hispanics, Haitians, and whites. The minorities faced racism in various forms. Some were denied jobs. Others were falsely imprisoned. Some were brutally assaulted. They were denied recourse to police brutality or general police injustice.
Their cities were also impeded. For example, Liberty City was an up and coming predominantly-black neighborhood. At its peak, the U.S. government constructed I-95 directly through it. Naturally, the city declined.
There were some positive aspects of Miami in the 1980s. The University of Miami Hurricanes Football team helped to bridge the race relations in the city. The coach decided to recruit local minority football players for the first time, even from Liberty City. Soon, the Hurricanes began winning the football championships.
The city’s demographics also changed during the ‘80s. It was a quiet town for retirees that turned into a spot for the young crowd. The large buildings in Miami were a new phenomenon for tourists and locals. The Omni was especially unique because it included a mall, carousel, and movie theatre.
Miami still remains a large tourist attraction and one of the best cities in the world.
Melissa D. Goolsarran Ramnauth, Esq. is a trademark and business attorney. She writes weekly articles on West Indian history and politics to raise awareness of the past, and educate the Caribbean diaspora on the need for legal contracts and trademarks.
She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minor degree in History that focused on the slavery and indentured servitude eras, a minor degree in Criminology, and a Juris Doctor degree.
MDGR Law, P.A.