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As Spanish poet and philosopher Ramón de Campoamor once wrote: “It’s that in a treacherous world / nothing is true or false / everything depends on its color / of the prism through which it is seen.”
The phrase, which still resonates with variations some 169 years later, can be applied to describe South Florida, a so-called paradise of beach and sun that has become an oasis for many wandering immigrants while at the same time apparently serves as a sort of Hell on Earth.
According to several studies by personal finance company WalletHub, Miami is one of the most stressful cities in the United States, one of the worst to rent or buy a home, to have a family, and a place with the poorest residents.
Hialeah — with 236,387 inhabitants — also does not fare well in these studies, sometimes falling below Miami, which has nearly double the population
These studies are often criticized by readers. Some residents say the situation is bad in South Florida, but the region does not merit being labeled among “the worst.” Others indicate that the problems are similar to those found in other metropolitan areas of the country.
If we compare other cities in South Florida, we see that not all are poorly ranked. For example, in a 2015 list of 150 of the best cities in Florida for families, Hialeah ranked as number 109 and Miami ranked 114. But Weston came on top of the list as number 6, Coral Gables ranked 14, Pembroke Pines came in at 31, followed by Davie at 32 and Doral at 37.
In 2016, a list of 130 of the best cities in Florida for finding a job, Miami was ranked at 92 and Hialeah at 129. Meanwhile, Coral Gables came in at 23, Sweetwater at 28, Fort Lauderdale at 37, Doral at 38, Davie at 42 and Miami Beach at 43.
So why do Miami and Hialeah tend to be at the bottom of WalletHub’s lists?
WalletHub analyst Jill González said it really depends on the study.
Both cities tend to rank low on studies focused on residential aspects “because they have some of the highest housing costs in the country.” The high cost of housing results in low home ownership rates and difficulties in obtaining affordable properties.
“They [Hialeah and Miami] also have some of the lowest median household incomes, under $32,000 per year,” said González.
She added that “a high percentage of residents are living below the poverty line, over 28 percent.”
But before residents of both cities become depressed by the scenario, González points out that Miami and Hialeah offer great activities and entertainment options.
“That’s why when it comes to retirement, Miami ranked fourth best last year,” he said.
Another study published in early June indicates that Miami is one of the best cities for graduating from college and starting a career.
But these concrete positive points of the cities are not sufficient for some critics.
Arnaldo Alonso, chief of staff for Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández’s office, noted that it is “peculiar” that most WalletHub studios place them at or near the bottom.
“I don’t know how WalletHub comes up these types of studies, and exactly what data and figures they use to reach this type of conclusion,” said Alonso, who added that “many call Hialeah their home and many more want to live in it because of the quality of life that exists here.”
According to him, the local administration strives “to improve and better the quality of life of our residents, because Hialeah is the City of Progress.”
In response, WalletHub’s analyst explained that “data for our reports is aggregated from well-known, mostly government sources by our team of research analysts.”
González also said that “methodologies are developed in conjunction with academic experts in the field” and that they “always welcome constructive criticism and incorporate feedback in the development of future reports.”
For his part, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado suggested that someone send WalletHub a map, because “they keep confusing the City of Miami with Miami-Dade County,” he said in an email to el Nuevo Herald .
The head of the mayor’s office in Hialeah also has a proposal for WalletHub: “I would challenge them to visit our great city and get a firsthand look of what this city is truly about and how this study in no way represents Hialeah.”