Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Iron Road to the Capital of Latin America

Tomorrow I leave Savannah for Miami, the end of the line on Amtrak. A journey from a world constrained by history to a place that is still inventing itself.

For tourists, Charleston and Savannah are about colonial times and early independence through the end of the civil war. A white history with selective amnesia.

Miami tilts to the future: it feels young (apart from all the snowbirds like me) and optimistic. As late as 1890 it was a tiny settlement of about 300 people. Today's Miami-Dade County has over 2.6 million.

Miami has earned the Capital of Latin America moniker. According to US census data for Miami-Dade residents:
65.6% identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino.
51.3% are foreign-born.
72.2% speak a language other than English at home.
In recent years there has been a large influx of well-heeled South Americans. Miami is their aspirational capital.

In Miami Beach I start the beaches segment of my journey, not that I'll spend any time lying on beaches.  My Valentine, last seen in New York City, flies in from Minneapolis (latitude 45°N) to enjoy subtropical (25°N) and tropical (12°N) places with me. Later, we'll be joined by family, including our young nephews.

Distance Miles
Savannah, GA
Miami, FL


  1. So what prompted you to take the train for this trip Tom? And have you travelled by Amtrak recently? I wonder what it's like, whether it is more or less stressful than flying to Miami at this time of year.

  2. Jerry, great to hear frim you, thanks for your questions.

    It wasn't one thing that got me to take Amtrak. I wanted to try something different, experience transitions in America (culture, place weather, etc.) more slowly. Besides, at this point in my life, I have the time.

    The ride is comfortable enough, plenty legroom, etc. It's rich in experience, watching the world go by, people-watching, talking with people I wouldn't otherwise meet, being in a grittier side of America. It was good to have time to read and think without having the guilt I should be "doing" something.

    It's certainly quicker, cheaper, just to fly. Flying is probably less stressful for me, as I know the ropes, how to deal with service disruptions, etc. But it's also routine for me, and I wanted to break routine.

    It has been a long time since I last took Amtrak, and then it was just shorter segments (St.Paul/Chicago, for example). For most travel, Amtrak is just not viable: the norm is one train a day at inconvenient times, on slow track, losing out to freight. This will not become an annual ritual.

    Once I've got a bit of mental distance, I'll probably post about this train journey.