Mapping Miami’s Cultures

By Moses Shumow, Ph.D.
Miami is often called a center of globalization, a crossroads of different cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities – even the “capital” of Latin America.  But what does it mean to live in a global city?  What exactly does that look like?  An​d given the huge impact of migration across the region, how can we better visualize the immigrant communities that help weave the rich cultural fabric of southeast Florida?  These were just a few of the questions underlying, a recent Global Learning Fellowship project that I have undertaken with a number of undergraduate students at FIU over the past 18 months. Developed initially with the a GL Faculty Fellowship grant and the support of the GIS department at FIU, is the culmination of an ongoing research project investigating immigration and cultural patterns in southeast Florida (Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade Counties), a region of 5.6 million people where nearly half of all inhabitants (2.6 million) come from outside the United States.  Using Geographic Information System (GIS) software and the 2010 U.S. Census data, the maps contained on present population densities and percentages by census tract for the largest immigrant groups in the tri-county area, allowing for a visual representation of patterns of settlement.Photo of Culture Mapped students
The project began in 2012 with a series of workshops hosted by Diana Ter-Ghazaryan, who was in the GIS department at FIU at the time.  With Ter-Ghazaryan’s help, FIU undergraduate student Romina Herrera, one of the primary creators of the maps and site, and I began creating immigrant population maps for the tri-county area.  This initial ​exercise quickly revealed interesting insights into the different geographies where immigrant enclaves have formed throughout the tri-county area.  During this time, FIU students Paolo Ramos and Zoe’ Hinds also helped gather data and mapping points for the site.  Appropriately enough, all three of the original students working on this project (see photo at left) were born outside of the United States: Romina is from Ecuador, Paolo’s family is from the Philippines, and Zoe’ was born in Jamaica.
During the fall of 2013, this mapping project was transformed into a semester-long multimedia project for a senior digital media capstone that I teach in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  My students (see their pictures, names and short bios here) spent the entire semester completely redesigning the site, coming up with a new name (the original site was called, and building multimedia pages for three immigrant communities: Venezuela, Brazil and Nicaragua.  Each community page contains videos, photos essays, and info-graphics that further illuminate the deep and lasting impact that each of these groups of immigrants has had on Miami and the region as a whole.Click here for CultureMapped Infographic
Moving forward, future capstone courses will continue building out the community profile pages, with the final goal of having a multimedia page for each of the 20 communities that are mapped on the site.  The work is also moving beyond the scope of just one class, or even a single university; this semester, I will be working with Dr. Sallie Hughes in the School of Communication at University of Miami as she builds a research project using the data on site for a course she is teaching on Latinos/as and the Media.  The final results of that research, and hopefully the many projects and publications to come, will also be hosted on the site.
 Dr. Moses Shumow is an assistant professor of journalism and broadcasting in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at FIU.


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