Viva Florida! The Discovery Continues

By: Jodi Mailander Farrell


On the street where I live in Coconut Grove, just south of downtown Miami, my neighbors come from Egypt, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Ireland, Japan, England and New York.

Within the one-mile area of my neighborhood, there is an Orthodox Jewish synagogue, a Protestant congregational church, a Buddhist temple, a Catholic church, an Episcopal church and a Hare Krishna temple.

If I’m hungry, I can walk to restaurants with owners who are Indian, French, Italian, Greek, Norwegian, Mexican and Puerto Rican.

Did I mention that Bahamians settled the Grove back in the 1880s?

Florida’s sunshine and beaches may be its best-known resources, but the incredible diversity of our people is what makes us a great state of exploration.

Our multi-cultural, multi-lingual population of 19 million translates every day into ethnic festivals and food events, architectural wonders and amazing art.

The world’s cultures started converging here 500 years ago, when Juan Ponce de León came to La Florida looking for gold and the fountain of youth. They’ve been enriching our shores ever since.

Florida claims the second-highest Latino population on the East coast, outside of New York, and one of the country’s most diverse, from Cuban-American communities in Miami and Tampa to Puerto Ricans in Orlando to Central Americans and Mexicans around Lake Okeechobee and deep in South Florida.

We have one of the country’s largest African-American populations. Asian Americans have settled along our Gulf Coast at high rates since the 1990s, the majority being Chinese, Filipinos and Vietnamese. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area has the eighth-largest GLBT community in the nation. And Native Americans have been living here longer than anybody – almost 12,000 years.

Along with English, we speak Spanish, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, French and Vietnamese, among other languages.

Florida, post-Ponce, is full of hidden gems and enchanting finds, thanks to the variety of folks who live here. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

I can’t wait to show you why.

Jodi Mailander Farrell is Visit Florida’s new Viva Florida Insider. Look for her stories, blogs, videos, tweets and Instagram posts that explore the rich diversity of Florida’s people, one trip at a time. Email her at

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