Miami-Dade vs. Broward: The Differences are “Night and Day”
Back in the day, when those of us from Miami would call those from up north, “the Cowards from Broward,” the lines between the two counties were more prominently defined.
The old joke was that you needed a passport to enter Dade County (it didn’t become Miami-Dade until years later).
This, of course, was back in the heyday of the 1980s, when boatloads and planeloads from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua dramatically altered the county’s demographics.
It was also at a time of racial tensions, riots, drug wars, police corruption and murder rampages.
But even today, after thousands of Miami-Dade residents
For the most part, Broward County remains in the shadows of Miami-Dade. That’s the way it’s always been. That’s the way it will always be.
Think Los Angeles and Orange counties. Los Angeles is the bustling metropolis that gave us Hollywood, Rage Against the Machine and low-riders.
Orange County gave us Disneyland, the Saddleback Church and the O.C. Not to mention the Anaheim Angels who now call themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, even though they play in Orange County.
Like Orange County, Broward County is a suburban sprawl of strip shopping centers, cookie-cutter communities and Type B personalities.
“People are just much more aggressive in Miami,” said Danny Hammontree, who was born and raised in Miami, living here until he was 32 before he moved up to Broward.
“They drive much crazier down there.”
The truth is, Miami is brash, unabashed and the road rules are more lax. And that’s just the way we like it.
“Night and Day”
Willie Morris, who lived in the Brickell area before moving to Ft. Lauderdale, said “the differences are like night and day.”
“Broward is much more laidback,” he said. “There is a lot less traffic and it’s easier to get from one place to the other.”
“But there is less to do in terms of nightlife.”
It’s not like Broward doesn’t party. Ft. Lauderdale, known as Ft. Liquordale to locals, was the college spring break hotspot for years – before the locals got fed up and chased the college kids away.
And don’t forget “the Dollhouse in Ft. Lauderdale” as sung by Motley Crue in 1987.
But that was actually in Sunny Isles, which is in Miami-Dade County, not Broward. The famous strip club is now called the Beach House Cabaret.
But Broward does have the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, which offers entertainment in a Disneyesque sort of way.
But nothing in Broward compares to South Beach or downtown Miami’s 24-hour liquor license district, where debauchery, douchery and depravity rage until dawn.
Florida state law requires last call to be at 2 a.m. but has allowed counties to make their own exemptions.
Even before the City of Miami approved a 24-hour liquor license district in downtown, bars throughout the county would regularly close at 5 a.m.
But it was only until a few years ago that Broward, which used to have last call at 2 a.m., extended its last call to 4 a.m. to compete with Miami.
But no matter how hard it tries, it will not be Miami. And that’s ok for people who live in Broward.
“You get more for your money up here than you do in Miami,” Hammontree said.
“And people up here at least speak English. It’s really hard living in Miami if you don’t know Spanish.”
The Language Barrier
And that’s probably the main difference between the two counties. Compared to Broward – or most anywhere else in the United States for that matter – Miami-Dade is just so damn foreign. So foreign that it might not be accurate to call it “diverse.”
“There’s not much diversity outside of Latin American culture,” Morris said.
In that regard, Broward may be more diverse in that it has small pockets of different cultures throughout the county, but it’s predominantly white.
According to 2008 census reports, Broward claimed 67 percent white non-Hispanics, 26 percent black non-Hispanics and 24 percent Hispanics.
Miami-Dade, on the other hand, claimed 63 percent Hispanics, 26 percent black non-Hispanics and 18 percent white non-Hispanics.
So yes, Miami-Dade is one of the few counties in the United States where being a minority puts you in the majority.
And that makes some white non-Hispanics uncomfortable. Or it at least makes it difficult for them to carry on their everyday lives without coming across some type of language barrier.
“Sometimes it’s like living in a Latin American country,” Morris said. “I even had problems at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) with workers who did not speak English.”
For some of us, that is the allure of living down here. I spent two years in Europe and one year in Colombia as well as visited there numerous times for summer or Christmas vacations to visit family. So the idea of living in an area that is not so Americanized does not scare me.
In fact, living anywhere else in the United States, with the exception of maybe New York City, can be pretty boring after living in Miami.
James Echols, a non-Hispanic white American from Texas who has lived in Miami-Dade for the last several years, said he wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.
“I love the Latin/Hispanic influence in Miami,” he said. “I think it adds flavor and spice to life of the city. White American culture tends to be pretty bland. What’s our biggest claim to fame? Deep fried Twinkies?”
When asked for his opinion on Broward, he wasn’t able to muster much.
“Broward, hmmm… I rarely go. Every time I do, it feels like a very ‘normal’ place. I mean, I’m sure it’s a nice enough place, but it doesn’t really hold any particular allure for me. I know some cool people who live up there, though.”
The fact is, people in Broward have strong opinions about Miami, but people in Miami rarely even go to Broward.
The difference between the two counties can best be reflected in their respective airports. Miami International Airport is chaotic, neurotic and traumatic. Especially if you are not under the influence of alcohol.
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, on the other hand, is organized, efficient and more affordable. Compared to MIA, it’s like walking along a peaceful beach after braving a crashing tidal wave.
However, it contains a fraction of the international flights you’ll find in Miami.
And that’s probably why you never hear of any large cocaine busts in FLL when they occur on a regular basis at MIA.
Miami is constantly ranked in those never-ending surveys that you find online. But you hardly ever see Fort Lauderdale making one of those lists unless it is for something like the Top Ten Most Underrated U.S. Cities, which stated the following:
Meanwhile, Miami is ranked in everything from the Top Ten Places to Live in the World, where Miami is described as “sizzling and sexy”, to America’s Top Ten Miserable Cities, which describes Miami as ranking in the “bottom 10% of areas when it comes to commute times, violent crime and corruption.”
Miami-Dade is definitely a county of extremes, containing one of the most expensive zip codes in the United States, Fisher Island, as well as one of the poorest neighborhoods, Overtown.
It is where you can indulge in an overpriced meal surrounded by celebrities on South Beach as well as pay a few dollars for a hearty meal surrounded by immigrants in Little Havana.
It is where you can dress to the nines at a South Beach nightclub and wear next to nothing on the beach the following morning.
For me, it’s one of the few places in the United States where I feel normal. But then again, I’ve never been normal. And neither has Miami.
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