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Florida's increasing diversity

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Two South Florida based articles but it mentions stuff statewide. Post more if you got them.


Black population swells in Broward


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More black people flocked to Broward in the last three years than to any other county in the nation, according to U.S. Census figures released today.

The increase has given Florida the second-highest black population in the country, behind only New York.

Florida had the fourth-highest black population in 2000. The state surpassed California and Texas to reach nearly 2.7 million black residents in July 2003. New York had 3.6 million.

Broward's black population increased by 70,000 between 2000 and 2003.

Statewide, 292,100 blacks have moved to Florida in the last three years.

Many blacks who came to the sunshine state in that time period are from the Caribbean or are of Caribbean descent.

Broward's black population growth has slightly outpaced that of some other groups in the county.

Four years ago, more than one in every five people who lived in the county was black. Now, it's almost one in every four.


Hispanic population grows statewide

The Census Bureau estimated that Florida's Hispanic population has grown by 500,000 in four years, with South Florida leading the way.


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South Florida's ethnic mix has become even more diverse since the 2000 Census, according to new estimates released today by the Census Bureau.

Going into the November election, Florida will have at least half a million more Hispanics than it did in 2000, almost half of them generated by South Florida growth.

In Miami-Dade County, the Hispanic majority grew from 57 percent to 60 percent in 2003. Broward County's Hispanic population climbed 28 percent, to reach one in five residents.

Broward's white non-Hispanic population is a majority at 53 percent, declining by 42,000 people since 2000. Miami-Dade's white non-Hispanic population dropped by about the same number and is now 19 percent of the total.

The big jump in Hispanic population is fed both by immigration and movement from Miami-Dade to Broward, said Thomas Boswell, a geography professor at the University of Miami who watches demographic trends.

''My sense is that you have a lot of well-off South American immigrants coming to places like Weston,'' Boswell said. ``You also have second-generation Hispanics moving out of Dade County and into Broward, partly because of the good housing that's there and also to put a little distance between them and their families in Dade County.''

West Indian immigrants from Haiti and Jamaica also are making their mark on Dade and Broward, jumping from 10 percent to 12 percent of the Broward population. West Indians make up about 8 percent of Miami-Dade's population.''

Miami-Dade is still the most Hispanic of the nation's two dozen largest urban counties -- those with a population of more than 1 million.

The Bronx in New York City joined the short list of those with a Hispanic majority, jumping from 48 percent to 51 percent Hispanic since 2000. The other Hispanic-majority large county is Bexar County, Texas, where San Antonio is located, which rose slightly to 56 percent.

Miami-Dade's black population grew slightly and remained at 22 percent of the population, while Broward's black population grew by 19 percent and remains at about 30 percent.

The Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C., said the number of Hispanic voters nationwide will have increased by about 20 percent, to 16 million, when compared to the 2000 presidential election, The Associated Press reported.

In Florida, 44 percent of Hispanic voters are naturalized citizens, but Florida-born Hispanics account for 83 percent of newly eligible Hispanic voters.

In Central Florida, the growing Puerto Rican community has traditionally cast its ballots for Democrats. Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties have seen an average 24 percent increase in the number of Hispanics from 2000 to July 2003.

Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, predicts that in the next 25 years, Florida's Hispanic population will outpace the state's non-Hispanic white and black populations, largely because of migration and high birth rates.

The Cuban share of Florida's Hispanic population is declining, Smith noted. ``Twenty years ago they made up more than half of the state's Hispanics. Now it's down to 31 percent.''

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follow up article


State's now second in black population

Florida's black population has become the second-highest in the country. In the last three years, 292,100 blacks have moved to the state.


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Fueled by a surge of Caribbean blacks moving into Broward County, Florida now has the second-highest black population in the nation, behind only New York, according to new Census figures released Thursday.

In 2000, Florida had the fourth-highest black population behind New York, California and Texas. Three years later, it had caught up to and passed California and Texas.

Statewide, in the last three years, 292,100 blacks have moved to Florida.

Broward's black population increased by 70,000 in that time period. In 2000, blacks made up roughly 22.4 percent of the county's 1.6 million residents. Recent estimates show they are now closer to 25 percent of the county's 1.7 million residents. Broward's black population is also catching up with Miami-Dade's. Broward had slightly more than 365,000 black residents in 2000, but now has almost 435,000.

Miami-Dade had about 494,000 blacks in 2000, and now has a little more than 507,000, estimates show.

Some blacks, like actress M'Zuri, say they prefer Broward's slower pace.

After living in France, Italy and New York, M'Zuri itched for Florida's warmth.

The one-name performer bought a Hollywood condo in March, and even had tea Thursday with a neighbor in her complex -- something she never did while living in New York.

''I like Hollywood,'' said M'Zuri, 38. ``I liked the fact that it is not as busy as Miami.''


The state's black population swelled to nearly 2.7 million in July 2003, according to Census figures. New York had 3.6 million.

Leading Broward's population growth as a whole are Hispanics, who saw the largest spike -- 28.6 percent from 2000 to 2003, compared to 19.2 percent growth among blacks. The white non-Hispanic population dropped 4.4 percent.

''They are not just attracting Latin Americans and retirees anymore,'' said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution and the University of Michigan Population Studies Center. ``Now they are attracting all segments of the population, including whites and blacks who normally would have just thought about going to Georgia or the Carolinas.''

Florida's surge is surprising, said Frey, who has been tracking black southern migration since the 1990s.

''I think it has to do with Florida becoming part of the mainstream south,'' he said.

Many blacks who came to the Sunshine State in the last three years are from the Caribbean or of Caribbean descent.

In 2003, according to the American Community Survey, West Indians represented more than 50 percent of Broward's black population.

Leaders, professors and community members agreed Thursday that Caribbean blacks move to Broward because they like the weather, the close proximity to their home countries and the fact that so many people here share the Caribbean culture and customs.

''It's more or less the closest thing to the islands,'' said Louis Prescott, 39, of Lauderhill, who moved from Trinidad to Lauderhill, where his parents live.

He has visited New York and Atlanta and found himself back in Florida.

Prescott met his wife, a St. Lucia native, in Lauderhill and the couple married in August.

''Florida has been good to me,'' he said.

Broward's black population is expected to continue to grow for the next three decades, said Stefan Rayer, a demographer with the Bureau of Economics & Business Research at the University of Florida.

The bureau projects the county's black population will climb to more than 750,000 by 2030, he said.


Florida's economy, job opportunities and quality of life are attractive, along with a desire among Baby Boomers and younger blacks to return to the South, Frey said.

But Broward is not exactly a black mecca, said Don Bowen, president of the Urban League of Broward County.

''I don't know that we qualify it as a mecca yet. I guess everything is relative to where you come from. You look at some of the living conditions in the Caribbean and this may be perceived as a step up,'' Bowen said.

``But I think when I compare black folks here to some other areas that may be considered urban, I think we still have a ways to go.''


For James Amps, 42, moving to Florida has been a boon for his business. Amps moved from Clinton, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., to Pembroke Pines in 2001 after his wife, Mary Ann, was relocated to the U.S. State Department office in Miami.

Amps International, a workforce-training, publishing, editing and technology company, has grown.

''It was a chance for us to come out of our zone of comfort,'' Amps said.

``In order to have growth, we have to be challenged and that challenge was to do something different.''

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Most of the diversity and growth is taking place in South Florida. You wouldn't find these demographics in the Panhandle, lol. It's good to see diversity, and I'd like to see these different groups interact more. Alot of times, people stay in their neighborhoods, with their own people.

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I thought Orlando was leading in the Black population. It may be a different statistic, something about PhDs and job growth among African Americans. It might also have something to do with the FAMU Law School U/C downtown.

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More diversity in Miami



Sunny Isles Beach a hot spot for Russians

Russians flock to Sunny Isles Beach and find many familiar flavors.


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Bilingual signs in businesses are common in South Florida -- a little ''se habla espa

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The new immigrant entrepreneurs


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It was the weather that taught Caracas-to-Miami transplant Eugenio R. Maslowski his first and most enduring lesson about business survival in a new country.

As a Monsanto executive in Moscow in the 1980s, the Venezuelan engineer learned not to judge whether to dress for the cold by looking up at the color of the sky. ''I figured out you look down at the people on the street to see how they are doing it,'' Maslowski said.

It is a lesson he has applied in the United States. ``The best way to be successful as immigrants is not to think how you do things back home but to do what people here do to become successful.''

Maslowski is just one of the stream of professional, moneyed Latin Americans who have fled worsening political and economic conditions in countries like Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina over the past five years.

This flight has deepened what researchers call a ''middle and upper class `brain drain''' in Latin America and brought a new class of entrepreneur to South Florida.

They range from former Uruguayan soccer star Enzo Francescoli who has launched a pay TV soccer channel to Venezuelan franchise owner Eduardo Torres. [see related stories on the facing page and page 25.]

Unlike other waves of immigrants from the region who sought escape from poverty or repressive regimes and were willing to take almost any job, these recent settlers are looking to replicate the status and lifestyle they enjoyed in Latin America.

Dubbed ''airport refugees,'' they're more likely than previous groups to immediately start businesses or open a South Florida branch of their business back home as a way to obtain visas to stay in the United States.

They are also immigrants that the United States never saw before en masse. Before their economies nose-dived around 2000, Venezuela and Argentina were countries with robust middle classes that had traditionally been destinations for immigrants from as far afield as Europe and the Middle East.

For Colombia, whose workers have long headed for el norte, as the United States is known throughout Latin America, there is a higher echelon of society now emigrating. They are escaping the four-decade-old civil war that used to be fought in the country's rural areas but has now crept into urban centers, where most wealthy Colombians live.

Even in a country as entrepreneur-friendly as the United States and even for English-speaking, U.S.-educated foreigners, launching a new business can pose unexpected challenges.

Hurdles range from learning cultural mores such as arriving at meetings on time or not physically touching employees and colleagues to navigating new legal and accounting systems, where practices are supposed to go by the book.

If new businesses founded by Americans have an 80 percent failure rate, outsiders find it even tougher to beat the odds.

''We caution our clients before making huge investments in the United States,'' said Stephen M. Bander, an immigration lawyer with Bander & Scarlatelli in Miami. ``A lot of people put their immigration status in front of smart business practices. They will keep a business going, even though it is losing them a lot of money, to keep their visa status.''

There are a number of ways entrepreneurs or professionals can obtain legal visas, from arriving as investors with a new company, finding a company to sponsor them or opening a local branch of their business back home.

Statistics from Bander's law practice confirm what South Floridians see and hear daily on the streets:

Accents ranging from the porte

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U.S. Census estimates for 2000 and 2003 show that the number of Argentines living in South Florida has jumped from 24,348 to 32,497, a 33 percent increase; Colombians have increased from 141,821 to 150,128, a 6 percent rise; while the number of Venezuelans has risen from 41,536 to 51,008, a 23 percent increase. The number of Uruguayans has risen from 4,009 to 10,971, nearly a threefold increase. Estimates included documented and undocumented residents.

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If we are diverse enough, we wont be a red state.....

Hopefully, we will be diversed enough to be blue next election


I think we saw on Nov. 2 that increasing diversity does not appear to work in the Democrats favor. If anything, Florida got redder.

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Arab Haitians become more vocal, visible

Haitians of Arab descent are a small group in South Florida, but they are fast emerging as more vocal, more visible and even more political.


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He grew up eating traditional dishes such as kibbe and tabbouleh. He listened to the lilt of the Lebanese dialect as his grandfather passionately discussed the issues of the day. He danced to the distinct sound of the music.

But even as Pierre Saliba enjoyed Middle Eastern culture, it was the cultural nuances of his real homeland, Haiti, that came to define much of his character.

''I am Haitian. My heritage is Lebanese,'' said Saliba, 43, a Pembroke Pines accountant who was born in Port-au-Prince and raised in Les Cayes, an isolated seaport on Haiti's southern coast. ``All of my core values, what I believe in, my basic education, I got them in Haiti. All were shaped in Haiti.''

Several generations after their grandparents arrived in Haiti from Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries, Saliba and other Haitians of Arab descent are still fighting for inclusion in a Haitian community that sometimes considers them outsiders.

Now their battle has been transplanted to South Florida, where the Arab-Haitian community is concentrated in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Their numbers are small, but growing. Of the 214,893 Haitians living in South Florida, only 201 identified themselves as Haitians of Arab descent, according to a Herald analysis of U.S. Census data from the Minnesota Population Center at the University of Minnesota.

The Arab Haitians say they're proud of both sides of their heritage.

''I always let people know I am Haitian,'' said South Dade's Delices De France bakery owner Patrick Baboun, whose mother emigrated from Palestine to Haiti in the 1940s after meeting his father, a Haitian of Palestinian descent. ``They are surprised, but I want them to see that we are hardworking people.''

And it's not just non-Haitians who are surprised to see a white or olive-skinned person speaking Creole.

''Yesterday, I was at a supermarket and talking Creole to a cousin of mine, and the people at the cash register were surprised,'' said Ronald Rigaud, owner of Miami's Citronelle restaurant whose mother is of Lebanese descent and whose dad's French-German roots date to before the Haitian Revolution.

'They asked, `You're Haitian?' I answered, 'Yes I am. What do you think?' I am beyond being offended by it.''

From Haitian bakeries to shipping companies to Coral Gables' upscale Galerie d'Art Nader, which promotes high-end Haitian art, the community is making its presence known in South Florida.

It is becoming more vocal and visible, and even political, as Haitians of all backgrounds debate the ouster of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

''You reach a point where you can no longer stand on the sidelines,'' said Dr. Ranley Desir, 46, a South Florida cardiologist whose father is a black Haitian and whose mother was born in northwest Haiti to Lebanese parents.

For Desir, the point arrived in December 2003, when university students in Haiti led one of the largest demonstrations against Aristide. More than 500 Haitians and Haitian Americans subsequently held an anti-Aristide rally in front of downtown Miami's Torch of Friendship. Among them were Arab Haitians like Desir.

''I don't usually go on the streets and protest, but you have to defend what is right,'' said Desir, who shares a medical practice with his cousin and fellow cardiologist Dr. Ralph Nader. Nader's siblings run the family-owned Coral Gables art gallery.

''Things were not acceptable in Haiti,'' Desir said.

The events in Haiti and the high-profile involvement of one of their own -- wealthy U.S.-born businessman Andre Apaid Jr. -- in Aristide's ouster have served as a rallying cry for the local Arab-Haitian community.

Apaid, who is of Haitian-Lebanese parentage, is the public face of a coalition of more than 300 public and private groups in Haiti, which in addition to demanding Aristide's resignation, called for a new social contract between all Haitians.

The revolt against Aristide, who portrayed himself as a champion of the poor masses, resurrected old class and racial tensions in Haiti's highly class-conscious society, where until recently, Arabs were not embraced by Haitian elites.

Aristide became public enemy No. 1 to some after publicly berating the elite -- including Arabs, often prosperous business people in Haiti -- for not doing their part to improve the lives of the poor.

''How many generations does it take for one to be Haitian?'' said Mario Delatour, an independent Haitian filmmaker who has spent the past year filming a documentary on the Arab-Haitian community, tracing its migration from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine in the 1800s and during World Wars I and II to the Port-au-Prince waterfront.

``They still point the finger to them because of their flesh tones. We are talking fourth-generation now -- 1890 to 2005. Can you call them Arabs? No. They are of Arab extraction, but they are Haitian.''

Delatour said the first documented group of Arabs arrived in Haiti in 1890. Christian minorities, they were leaving the Ottoman Empire.

''They came dirt-poor, and now a hundred years later they are a force to be reckoned with,'' Delatour said.

Once in Haiti, they were shunned by the elite but embraced by the poor masses, to whom they sold textiles. They also mastered the Creole language, sent their children to Roman Catholic schools and taught them the Haitian way of life.

When various Haitian presidents attempted to expel them from the country by enacting anti-Arab laws, some left but soon returned.

It wasn't until Haiti's president-for-life, Francois ''Papa Doc'' Duvalier, seized power in 1956 that Haitians of Arab decent began to see progress. Duvalier made them political allies and named Carlo Boulos as the first Haitian of Arab descent to be health minister, Delatour said.

Today, Boulos' son Dr. Reginald Boulos is a physician who serves as president of the Haitian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Port-au-Prince.

Carl Fombrun, a South Florida Haitian radio commentator who is not an Arab, said the Arab Haitians have been successful because they have focused on business enterprises. Fombrun, a light-skinned Haitian from a prominent family, said members of his class have tended to obtain professional degrees while the Arab Haitians provide services, mostly in the textile business. Haitians, he said, need to overcome their biases and suspicions of Arabs. Still, some Haitians remain skeptical about the group.

''I am very cautious of this growing involvement,'' said Gepsie Metellus, a local Haitian community activist. ``Frankly, they don't have a good track record of affirming their Haitian-ness, of actually contributing to the social, political and cultural growth of the island they claim to be their homeland.''

Metellus said that while she agreed with many Arab Haitians in denouncing Aristide's ''dictatorial tendencies,'' ``I clearly know they are not my allies.''

Saliba, the forensic accountant who helps build Habitat for Humanity homes in Little Haiti and lobbies Gov. Jeb Bush on Haitian issues, doesn't disagree that there are those among his group who should do better at sharing the wealth.

''I cannot say 100 percent she is right and 100 percent she is wrong . . . this is a fight we cannot win,'' he said. ``It's very hard for good people to help this community. They don't make it easy for you even if you are not Haitian. When they see you really want to help and the community is responding to you, they will pull the race card.''

Haitians, he said, have to learn to live with each other.

''We are proud to be Haitian,'' he said. ``Right now, in this community, whether they like ir or not there is an emerging [Arab-Haitian] community, people moving down from New York, Boston, to South Dade. You will see more of us.''

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It seems the Lebanese and Palistinians spread out pretty far. There's quite a few mixes in South America from what I can tell. I never would have figured Haiti though.

I'm noticing more East Asian mixes in South American's as well.

Just goes to show the diversity in Miami's "hispanic" population.

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Pardon me here if I'm a bit off topic, but taking "diversity" in its most true sense I was down visiting friends in Deland a few weeks ago walked into a Beef O'Bradys 3 Packer fans all originally from Wisconsin/Illinois, 4-5 Jet fans originally from the tri-state, a few others from Minnesota, St. Louis, then a room full (half the place) of Steeler fans, and about a dozen more in the second room, I'd say about 30-40 if not more and this is only little East Deland!

Florida does get tons of ex-northerners from all over (NYC, Boston, Chitown etc.) but some people in the know here believe Pittsburgh is the Puerto Rico of American cities, with 1/2 to 2/3rds of its people living elsewhere right now. True we are not a race or a nation (although we almost seem like it on Sundays) but Pittsburgh is unique for a medium sized city in modern American history, and many of them are living in Florida, but not living as Floridians.


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The Steelers always turn into a topic of conversation down here on sports talk radio. They are really everywhere. I would even go so far as to guess a Jets-Steelers game played in Miami would sell out.

Both of my parents were born in Pa. My grandfather was a coal miner from wilkes-barre and the other a bus driver in Pitt. They were a part of the great post war boom in Miami.

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^^ Definitely an example of the ease of mobility of American society, as well as how changes in the local economy or the chance to fulfill a dream cause people to move. That can be said for anyone who migrates, whether it be from a different state or a different country, altogether.

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says huge things about Florida that the state can absorb so much diversity both from the industrial north and Internationally. Florida is much similar to some of the northern giants 100 years ago, in many ways this will be the Florida century.

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It seems the Lebanese and Palistinians spread out pretty far.  There's quite a few mixes in South America from what I can tell.  I never would have figured Haiti though.

I'm noticing more East Asian mixes in South American's as well.

Just goes to show the diversity in Miami's "hispanic" population.


It never clicked in my mind for some reason until now, but there's a convenience store in Hialeah (suburb of Miami) called "El Liban

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1,000 Filipinos hold 15th annual festival in Sunrise

By Ken Kaye

Staff Writer

Posted January 17 2005

They danced, feasted and frolicked. But this was no wild party.

Rather, more than 1,000 Filipinos from throughout South Florida joined together on Sunday to honor the infant Jesus during the 15th annual Santo Ni

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Monday, Jan 24, 2005


Seeking diversity, marketers try out their products in South Florida


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Federated Department stores recently invited an army of 100 vendors and manufacturers to South Florida. The mission: Go shopping at Burdines-Macy's. That's where Federated launched a preview of spring fashion colors, styles and fabrics for the upcoming season.

The corporate design was as sleek as an A-line dress: If a warm-weather garment is a hit in Miami -- a key test market for hot trends -- the forecast bodes well for the rest of the country, according to Carey Watson, senior vice president for marketing at Burdines-Macy's, which Federated owns along with Bloomingdale's and other chains.

''We sell fashion extremely well in this market,'' Watson says. ``Down here the climate is right so you get a better read [of warm weather trends]''

From a new Dunkin Donuts apple pie to sushi, food companies, manufacturers and retailers are testing their expectant blockbuster products in South Florida. The mixture of ages, cultures and income levels makes Florida, especially South Florida, an ideal laboratory for products and campaigns before they're rolled out nationally, according to marketing experts.

''It used to be run it up the flag pole in Peoria and see if it flies,'' said Mark Kneckes, associate professor of marketing on the North Miami campus of Johnson & Wales University. ``Middle America was where everyone was.''

But with Americans' appetite for ethnic food increasing, plus the national rise in minority populations, corporations are catering more to minority communities.

For instance, in the food and beverage market, sales of Hispanic products hit $4.3 billion in 2004, up 7.5 percent from 2003, according to estimates from Packaged Facts, a market research company.

South Florida's multicultural consumer mix attracts U.S. corporations seeking to test specialty and mainstream products.

''Our customer base in Florida is unlike any other market,'' said Bill Whitman, a spokesman for McDonald's, which is testing a new menu in South Florida. ``South Florida is a great market for McDonald's. Certainly, the diversity of tastes, cultures and other aspects of customer preference are unique to South Florida and give us the ability to test new products.''


McDonald's initially tested its new chicken sandwich menu in Kalamazoo, Mich., where the new selections received positive results. But attracted by the diverse demographics of South Florida, the company also opted to include restaurants in Miami and West Palm Beach.

''We're still gathering feedback from customers,'' Whitman said.

To date, the local reviewers have been positive, Whitman said, and include Luisa Zepeda, 16, of Miami. Earlier this month, Luisa tasted one of the company's new chicken sandwiches and was impressed.

More importantly, Zepeda appreciates the company's efforts to try out products in Miami.

''It's important to me,'' she said. ``People have different tastes in food, clothing -- everything.''


Sears, which is merging with Kmart, recently chose South Florida as a site for its national ''multicultural makeover,'' a pilot program in which the retailer will offer more clothing lines to appeal to Hispanic, black and Asian consumers.

As part of program, Sears updated store signs and displays to feature merchandise catering to a broader multiethnic audience.

Clearly, not every company is tapping South Florida as a test site.

Campbell Soup, for example, continues to use small communities in Wisconsin and Massachusetts for product pilots, according to spokesman John Faulkner. Based in Camden, N.J, Campbell Soup also pulls together diverse focus groups from Philadelphia and Baltimore, which are near Campbell's corporate headquarters.

''The company tests its Tex-Mex product lines in the Texas area and also uses employees to sample and screen products,'' Faulkner said. ``We look at taste trends that are gaining momentum and that will have mass appeal.''


The home team also provides an advantage to Miami-based Benihana, which has tested products and concepts for its 40-year-old national restaurant chain in South Florida and in Chicago, according to Kevin Aoki, vice president of marketing and son of the store's founder.

Later this year, Benihana will test a new floor plan in Miramar. The new design creates a larger bar area and more privacy for diners, with less open space.

A few years ago, Benihana tested a conveyer-belt, fast-food sushi concept in South Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Chicago. The lackluster results from that campaign prompted Benihana to opt against a national introduction of a fast-food sushi menu. The company has since shifted to an upscale concept in South Beach, where it operates a Japanese restaurant called Doraku.

Meanwhile, in 2004, Benihana launched a new national customer loyalty program, with gifts and incentives. That national campaign was tested for a year in Florida, Aoki said.

''This market is diverse enough to see what consumers in other areas of the country would feel about our concepts,'' Aoki said. ``We can pretty much gauge what the consumers feel outside of Florida.''

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An interesting piece on how we are handling the diversity.


Teens in S. Florida are heading to new racial, ethnic frontier

South Florida's cultural kaleidoscope is reshaping race relations for teens: An interplay of language, skin color, country of origin and stereotypes often determine whom they befriend and why.


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Josette Exantus was born in Miami and came of age in Little Haiti, yet for all her street savvy, nothing quite prepared her for her own startled reaction to college.

''Goodness,'' she thought to herself during those early, slightly jarring freshman days. There she was, a Haitian American living in one of America's most multicultural cities, unnerved to find herself around white and Hispanic students at Miami Dade College.

''It's something we were not exposed to in youth. I only knew black students,'' Exantus, 20, said. Now she hangs out with Hispanics and a few white kids, but her closest friends are black. ''You incline towards your racial environment. It's a comfort zone,'' she said. ``The difference in race really doesn't matter, but we're not color-blind.''

In South Florida, stories like Exantus' are not rare. For all the region's diversity, the groups that teenagers and young adults socialize with are often not very mixed. Relatively recent and dramatic demographic shifts have also reshaped race relations, splintering what was once a black vs. white issue into one with myriad overlapping, seemingly contradictory pieces.

''That whole interracial white-black thing, that's history, that's not on the front burner anymore,'' said Marvin Dunn, an associate professor of community psychology at Florida International University.

``It's the Hispanic-black thing. And interethnic tensions. Between African Americans and Haitians, between Haitians and Jamaicans. Between Hispanics who resent Cubans for being too dominant. Wherever this country is going in terms of ethnic evolution, South Florida will get it first.''

Youngsters who jostle against one other in classrooms every day tend to be at the forefront of South Florida's racial frontiers. For children in elementary and middle schools, ethnicity is rarely an issue. But teenagers entering high school quickly become aware of racial differences and of how society might stereotype their race. Add to that a yearning to fit in and language differences, and children naturally gravitate toward others with whom they have the most in common.


Which is perhaps why many South Florida teenagers report that despite the region's diversity, children by and large stick with their own.

Experts attribute much of this self-segregation to the homogeneity of the region's public schools. Exantus' high school, for example, Miami Edison High, is almost entirely black. But even in more diverse schools, blatant manifestations of self-segregation emerge, most often in the cafeteria at lunchtime.

''Here it's very cliquish,'' said Kim Davis, a 17-year-old white senior at Palmetto High. ``The whites hang out with the whites; the blacks hang out with the blacks. I don't like it, but that's how it is.''


Certainly there are exceptions. The runaway popularity of hip-hop has compelled countless young white and Hispanic youngsters to hang out with black hip-hop fans. Also, students at the more diverse magnet schools, like Miami's New World School of the Arts, insist that they give little thought to racial differences and socialize instead on the basis of academic major or interest.

''Kids nowadays don't care about the color of skin anymore,'' said Monica Martinez, 15, a freshman at South Broward High School, a magnet school for marine science.

Yet, according to experts who study South Florida's cultural soup, children here by and large befriend their own.

''The kids who have well-developed interests -- the real jocks, the real academic achievers, the band players, they overcome race and ethnic boundaries,'' said Alex Stepick, one of the authors of This Land Is Our Land: Immigrants and Power in Miami. ``They're the most visible ones. But that leaves out most kids.''

So what does that mean for most teenagers? In South Florida, it depends on where they fall in a still evolving, almost caste-like system.

The bottom rung tends to be occupied by youngsters who do not speak English, Stepick said. At Edison, for example, 15-year-old Trakiva Breaker and her young friends referred derogatorily about recently arrived Haitians.

''You can be scared of them,'' Trakiva said. ``That they'll get mad at you and start talking Creole.''

Second-generation Hispanics echoed similar disdain for the behavior of some other Latins. Kathy Lee Jimenez, 18, a senior at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, bristles when she hears other Hispanics speak Spanish. ''I don't think we should speak Spanish, and they do it all the time,'' said Jimenez, whose father is Cuban. She also winces at displays of non-American nationalism.

'I think it's offensive when people have on their backpacks, `Venezuela's No. 1,' '' she said. ``They need to kiss the ground they walk on.''

Some divisions are more acute. Davis, the white student at Palmetto, found herself frozen out by her new Hispanic boyfriend's Spanish-speaking friends.


Conversely, many young Hispanics said they would never bring a black boyfriend or girlfriend home for fear that their old-fashioned parents would react harshly. Amanda Garcia, 15, a student at Miami's New World School of the Arts, said her mother was adamant that she stick with nonblack Latins, even though Garcia had a black Puerto Rican grandfather.

''The darker you are, the worse you get treated'' by society, said Reyna Molina, 22, a student at Broward Community College, when asked to explain prejudice within her Cuban-American family.

Divisions can linger on college and university campuses, too, often to the surprise of students. Samantha Bailey, 22, a New Yorker born to Jamaican parents, was struck by how South Americans, who seemed to identify more with white Europeans, formed cliques at the University of Miami.


''In New York, Hispanics feel their country, but they feel New York, and they tend to mix more,'' she said. And Tiffany Bacon, 18, a black student at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, was crestfallen to find that groups at her school tended to ``hang out with their own.''

Still, inexorably, if too slowly for some, the boundaries are blurring. South Florida's children might still self-segregate, experts say, but they usually do have friends from all racial groups, and certainly more so than teenagers did 20 years ago.

''It's not as if race and ethnicity do not matter. It just doesn't matter as much as it used to,'' Stepick said.

Indeed, a 2003 Gallup national poll found that seven out of 10 Americans of all races said they approved of interracial marriage. And it is through the heart, some social scientists believe, that lingering racial divisions, and tensions, can best be resolved.

Recently, Dunn, the community psychologist, stood before a crowd of mostly black and Hispanic students at Coral Reef High School in Southwest Miami-Dade.

He urged the teenagers to shed lingering negative stereotypes about each other.

A student raised his hand. ''You sound pessimistic,'' the boy said. ``How do you solve the problem?''

The corners of Dunn's mouth turned up.

''You will court yourself out of it,'' Dunn replied. ``You will marry yourself out of the problem.''

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What a great refreshing thread (let's keep this one afloat:))...I'm Haitian, and I'm very familiar with light-skinned Haitian (me being the darkest in my whole family)...but I never knew there were Arab -Haitians (or Haitians of Arab descent)...Thanks for the articles...keep posting:D

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