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South Florida is not any one thing—how could it be, with a mix of Cubans, whites, Haitians, Colombians, Jews, Nicaraguans, Jamaicans, Bahamians, Barbadians, Puerto Ricans, and about a dozen others—but it’s actually always been like that.

“Even in the pre-Columbian sense, South Florida is in the Caribbean, whether people want to admit that or not,” says Phillip Carter, a linguistics professor at Florida International University and one of the foremost experts on the dialect of Miami and South Florida. As far back as we can reach, the tip of the Floridian peninsula has been a site of interchange: even the most famous of Florida indigenous groups, the Seminoles, was a heterogeneous conglomeration of tribes that didn’t even get to Florida until the early 1700s.

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