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Experience Miami on water

Miami offers impressive art, infinite restaurants, wild clubs, exciting bars and fantastic sport. But something else forms its backbone.

Photo: Mattias Lundblad

Miami is surrounded by water. The city’s geographic location means sea and water form part of the big city’s identity. To the west the Everglades, “the river of grass,” spreads out. An enormous patch of wetlands that many people think is a gigantic swamp, but which, in actual fact, is a slow moving, shallow river. In the other direction, east of the city, is the pale green Caribbean Sea. Its waves break onto the city’s white beaches and when you cast your eyes into the distance, the surface of the water shining green blue and clear in the sunshine, appears almost to be a siren song enticing you – calling you – and the sea certainly seems to stretch for ever, as though the rest of the world were a clear, warm ocean.
“It’s impossible to separate Miami and life here from the surrounding sea. Everyone goes fishing, kayaking, diving. It’s part of life here,” says diver Sam Scales.

The 2016 Best Movie Oscar-winning Moonlightis set in the poor Miami district of Liberty City, in cultural terms, a million miles from the expensive apartments, luxury hotels and middle and upper class beach and sun-drenched water-based activities. A few crucial scenes are set on the beach, however. Drug dealer Juan, who takes the main character Little under his wing, takes him to the beach at Miami Beach in the first part of the movie. “Nobody can tell you who you are,” Juan tells the scrawny little boy after he teaches him how to swim. Later in the movie, Little, now a teenager called Chiron, has his first sexual experience with another man on the beach, under the moonlight, by the edge of the waves rolling in over the Miami sand.

In most movies and TV series set in Miami, water plays a role, often representing affluence, with large motorboats and luxury beach houses. That the ocean also does this in a powerful and deadly serious movie such as Moonlight, says something about the value of the water in a Miami context. 
“I came here on holiday from New York City 15 years ago. I went out on a fishing trip and saw the water, the weather and the fish we reeled in, one after the other. I never went back,” says fishing trip guide Pedro.

The water is not simply a bearer of luxury, or a place for hobbies and games. It’s not simply a stage for the rising sun every morning or the stunning views that raise the price of apartments and houses whose windows capture it. The ocean stands for something cleansing and something free, the depth can be reflected in the deep, be found, be constructed. As singer-songwriter Iggy Pop has said,“Second only to the sea, the Miami sky has been the greatest comfort in my life past 50.”

Photo: Shutterstock

Last edited: February 4, 2019

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