Miami is one of the major U.S. cities where Hispanics dominate numerically, politically, and economically. In being so, as of the 2000 census, the median household income in Miami was $35,966, approximately $6,000 below the national average. 18% of Miami residents fall below the poverty line making it one of the top 5 poorest cities in the United States. Despite the low income levels, Latinos, particularly Cubans, have thrived in Miami in comparison to other U.S. cities. The average per capita income of Latinos in Miami is $16,914 versus a national average of $12,111. In addition, approximately 60% of Miami firms are minority-owned. (46)
Cuban success stories are everywhere in Miami . U.S. born Cubans have the highest average incomes of any Hispanic group, of which 2/3 of them reside in Florida . Of the 80 Latinos in the United States worth $25 million dollars or more, 32 are of Cuban origin. Some South Americans, such as Columbians and Peruvians, also share the upper crust with Cubans in Miami . Their success is attributable to their high level of education prior to leaving their respective countries. These wealthy immigrants, many business and professional people, fled South America with the economic plunge of the 80's, not as political refugees. (47)
Nicaraguans in Miami have not found the same success. After fleeing a communist over-throw in Nicaragua many came to Miami where they settled in areas such as Hialeah and East Little Havana. Of the immigrants that came, most were poor, averaged at the age 26 with an educational level of a nine year old, and half did not speak English well, if at all. Their struggle continues to this day. (47)
Miami's geographical proximity to South America has made it a major hub for several international companies, such as American Airlines, Cisco, Disney, FedEx, and Sony. Miami is also the home to several company headquarters, notably Alienware, Burker King, Citrix Systems, and Noerwegian Cruise Lines. In addition to this, downtown Miami has the largest concentration of international banks in the country. This is in part due to the existence of Miami International Airport and the Port of Miami which serve as entry points for cargo from South America and the Caribbean.
Outside of banking and import/export, Miami's next most successful industry is tourism. From the world renowned South Beach off of Ocean Drive to the Art Deco district to the nightlife on Lincoln Avenue, Miami is a vacation hot-spot. (15)
As discussed, Miami 's banking and import-export are among the strongest in the nation and it is seen by many as the “business exchange corridor to all of Latin America .” Even so, in recent years economic opportunities for the middle and lower class have been diminishing, hurting Latinos who often fall in these income brackets. (48)
There are several companies in Florida that implement programs whose goals are to find employment for Latinos. The Hispanic Employment Program (HEP) is one of these programs. HEP began with President Nixon's memorandum in 1970, which established the “Sixteen-Point Plan.” One such company is the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT's involvement with HEP was created in order to “assist in reversing the under-representation and underutilization of Hispanics in DOT and better serve the nation's community.” (49) The program seeks a stronger relationship with the Latino community via employment, education, and business opportunities.