The newly established Miami Forever Fund will be a permanent endowment, allowing passionate Miamians to provide tactical resources for innovation and solutions to the known challenges of today and those of tomorrow we can’t yet foresee. Miami Fellows alum Marika Lynch and husband Adrian Villaraos were among the first donors to the fund. We asked Marika why she chose to live and invest in Miami.

“I’m here because I was born here and thus ruined for anywhere else.”

Author Colson Whitehead wrote that about his native New York, but the moment I read it, I thought he was speaking to me, about me, and about Miami.

My husband Adrian and I have deep roots here. Adrian was born in Hialeah, and his parents still live on the block his family moved to from Cuba in 1961. Both sides of my family moved here in the early 1940s for entirely different reasons. My grandmother wanted to be warm, for one.

While Adrian and I left to study elsewhere, the family magnet always pulled us back. We came willingly, though. We both fit here. It’s us. Miami is a land apart.

In fact, I consider myself a Miamian first, an American second. To me, Miami is the best expression of American values. Yes, we are plagued by economic inequality, and we have a rash of challenges that even on the best days seem unsolvable. Yet, Miami welcomes all – from my parents-in-law to the most recent arrivals – to participate in building the city’s future.

We invested in the Miami Forever Fund because of our passion for this place. We loved the idea that we could invest in something now that will keep paying dividends for our city into the future. Selfishly, we also want our kids to live here when they grow up. However, Greater Miami must be the place they choose to live – a place with schools they want to send their kids to, with parks they want to play in and streets they feel safe on. We have a lot of work cut out for us, but I know Miami can be that place for them.

In my own lifetime, this city has changed and grown so much. As a young college graduate, I used to lament Miami’s lack of arts and culture. I attended the Miami Book Fair, where I discovered author Colson Whitehead, from dawn to dusk, clinging to the streets of downtown in what felt like my once a year cultural infusion. Yet, in just the past 10 years, Greater Miami experienced a cultural boom. What other city has opened a performing arts center, major museums, a high-tech home for a symphony, and one of the country’s most inventive poetry festivals – during one of the worst recessions in recent times? Perhaps more importantly, that cultural growth goes beyond downtown and the beach. It has sprung up all around us.

If we apply that focus, that vision and that energy to grow our economy, reduce inequality and fight climate change, imagine what can happen.

Marika Lynch is a Miami Fellows class IV alum.

For more information on the Miami Forever Fund, email Rebecca Mandelman.


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