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  • Writer's pictureMaria Teresa Shephard

Crossing Coasts | A minimal journey

I look down at my Pan de Bono ready to devour it. But first, I think on what just happened while I ordered it. As the server asked me what I wanted to start with, I probed him to see what this ambiguous “cheese bread” menu item was. I mean, truly, that could be anything. It was in English, but I new the cafe was Brazilian, so I asked, “Is this more like Pan de Yuca or Pan de Bono?” while I pointed at the corresponding words on the menu. The server immediately switched to Spanish, stating, “Ah well, see it’s more like a mix of the two, but we can say its closer to Pan de Bono.” The subsequent conversation all happened in a beautiful blend of 90% Spanish, 10% “okay’s”. It’s good to be back home.

That is the linguistic encapsulation of this city; my city. Miami is a place unlike any other I have ever been to, and I have visited a few. I had the distinct pleasure of being born here, which started everything. [Insert corny joke here about how I am ‘extra’ just like the city.] I also went to school here, a period of time in my life that was simply inolvidable. Those who have also lived here for any period of time would empathize with my experiences in Miami-Dade, even down to the most minuscule ‘cafe con pan’ interaction.

There is just something about this city that is simultaneously intoxicating and sobering. On the same street, you can see someone who is clearly surgically constructed walking their three and a half pound morkie as they pass by another person who has the distinct aroma of someone who has not showered in weeks, other than the daily 4pm thunderstorm. It’s very possible to be in Miami and completely ignore the financial disparities. The intersection of worlds is staggering.

From this intersection, however, also comes the magnificent meal I am currently having. Miami is a cultural amalgamation of international origin. Let’s play with some numbers for a second:

Based on a 2016 Relative Comparison Advantage calculation, the three most common birthplace origins for foreign-born residents were Cuba, Haiti, and Mexico. In comparison to the national statistics, Miami has high origin populations for Cuba, The Bahamas, and Venezuela, sequentially followed. The Latinx/Hispanic and Black communities dominate the population, representing a combined total of 83.8%. The White community only represents 13.6% of the population. 1.81M of Miami-Dade County, FL citizens are speakers of a non-English language, which is higher than the national average of 21.6%.

Wow. Que locura! But that’s the thing, right, it’s actually not that crazy when you live here and this is your reality. Those statistics are “what is normal”. I can’t stress that enough.

Not being white is normal here.

Not being from the States originally, is normal here.

Not speaking English is normal here.

Let that sink in.


When I lived in Nashville, I lost my sense of home in a radical way. I was suddenly not normal. Being Latinx, First Generation American, and an imperfect speaker of English made me the foreigner in a state they call the North of the South and the South of the North. Quite frankly, I was terrified at first. I couldn’t believe that I made the decision to move there with my partner at the time. Que pendejada! Que coño was I thinking? What I didn’t know was that I was embarking on the biggest psychological and spiritual journey I had ever been on.

In Nashville I experienced domestic abuse, multiple sexual assaults, and intense moments of marginalization and dehumanization. I also formed some of the strongest bonds I will retain for the rest of my life. Why? All because Nashville pushed me to my limits. Then, I stepped beyond them.


As I wrap up my last trip to Miami, I look back on my city with the fondest memories and teary eyes. I am blessed to call Miami mine. Nashville made me see that. Never will I forget what makes me unique. Because of Miami, I cannot be replicated or duplicated, and for that, I am grateful.

For a girl who is so clearly minimalist, I will always have an excess of love for the 305. Pa’ mi gente!

San Francisco, here I come.

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