📸 Photography by Stefani Davila
Let’s start with the basics: who are you? What do you do?
Hi! I’m Aaron. I was born in Southern California but grew up in South Florida, where my dad’s family is from. As far as I remember, I loved looking at maps, learning about other cultures, and memorizing the flags of the world. After high school, I went off to UCF to study international relations and never looked back.
I ended up doing a dual degree graduate program between the London School of Economics and George Washington University, where I focused on international history and U.S. foreign policy. Along the way, I immersed myself in various government systems to learn how different societies govern themselves and conduct international affairs. This took me to the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament, as well as the national legislatures of Germany, Australia, Luxembourg, and Canada, and the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C. After spending a few years as a foreign policy analyst for the main bank of Japan, I accepted a fellowship opportunity in Moscow, where I researched Russian political affairs and international technology policy during a period of increasingly difficult relations between Russia and the United States.
The pandemic brought me back home to South Florida, where I planned to continue working in international affairs. The problem I encountered? Outside of academia, international affairs work opportunities were few and far between. With few options by way of think tanks, institutes for political analysis, or similar organizations, in August 2021 I founded the World Affairs Council of Miami, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to build out our community’s international affairs sector. I currently serve as the President of the Board. For now, we are an all-volunteer organization, which means our team has day jobs, too. I work for Rescue Metal Framing, LLC., a family-owned, South Florida-based steel manufacturing firm. In that capacity, I sell steel for construction use and manage international relationships critical to the manufacturing process.
What a journey you’ve had! Now that you’re back here, what neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?
Since moving back to Florida I have been living in beautiful Miami Beach, but I grew up in Davie! Nothing but love for both Broward and Dade!
What brings you most alive about the 305?
I love that we are at a crossroads of worlds! Miami is in many ways a Latin American metropolis in the United States, so living here allows you to access all that’s offered by the U.S. and the rest of the Americas. What particularly fascinates me are all the different ideas and information circulating in our society. Cultural shifts, political upheavals, and economic trends taking place from Argentina to Cuba, and virtually everywhere between, make their way to Miami. All you have to do is know where to look and listen.
What’s your favorite Miami memory?
As a kid, I used to love going to Heat games with my family in the early and mid-2000s. I also vividly remember being out of school for what seemed like an eternity when Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma hit Florida in 2005.
If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mr. O1‘s Extraordinary Pizza. The pizza is as exceptional as the story. An Italian receiving a U.S. extraordinary talent visa to make pizza in America? Say less.
Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.
Start my day with a sunrise and Cuban coffee on Miami Beach, head to Homestead for tropical fruit and Mexican food, and finish the day with a sunset and Argentinian food in Key Biscayne. Nothing more needed.
What’s a project you’re working on and how can our readers help you with it?
We are working to build the World Affairs Council of Miami into our community’s premier non-profit for international affairs education. As an independent and non-partisan organization, our goal is to serve as a public good that enhances local access to high-quality information on international affairs.
What does this mean specifically? We invite distinguished speakers to share their knowledge of foreign affairs with the South Florida public. We connect and familiarize Miamians with work being done by foreign diplomats based in Miami’s many consulates. We also hold international affairs learning competitions for high school students to help young leaders get a head start on becoming globally minded and internationally competitive. And we are working to support the creation of original international affairs research relevant to our community’s needs. In essence: think global; serve local.
Since getting started about two years ago, we’ve hosted around 50 programs working with leading local institutions like Miami-Dade College and FIU, as well as with other Miami-based non-profits and international business organizations. We’ve also worked with multilateral organizations like NATO and the United Nations; over a dozen foreign countries; world-class, Washington D.C.-based think tanks; and prominent U.S. officials — all to help Miamians better understand the complexities of a rapidly changing world.
Everything we have done so far, we have done with a limited budget and no staff. We are looking for Miamians’ support to build a team of professionals for the World Affairs Council in order to bring sustainability and scale to our programs and high-quality international affairs jobs to our community. You can make a donation to help us achieve that goal by clicking here.
What’s your favorite local social media account and why?
If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?
Miami is a place that welcomes new people, new ideas, and new energy. The secret is figuring out how to stay focused in a city that is world famous for an infinite amount of distractions, each more exciting than the next.
How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?
Miami’s inherently international nature motivates my belief, and the belief of our entire organization, that our community seeks and deserves high-quality information about the world of international affairs. On a personal note, Miami’s multilingualism helps keep my foreign languages sharp. I have always loved languages, but to not lose them you really do need to use them. There aren’t too many American cities where you can regularly speak two to three languages in the same day. Thankfully, Miami is a wonderful exception.
If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?
I would institute an efficient and affordable light-rail system that would make use of trams and MetroRail to move Miamians around the city, alleviating car dependency, reducing commute times, and easing congestion. This system would ideally make use of the new Brightline station and increasingly revitalized downtown as the central hub, and then spiral out in each direction to new neighborhood stations, reaching across the Bay to the Beach and deep into Miami’s residential suburbs. Such a system would dramatically improve the quality of life in Miami.
What are you looking forward to as this year comes to a close?
These last two years since founding the World Affairs Council of Miami have been some of the most rewarding times of my life. What I’m looking forward to most in the months ahead is meeting the milestone of hiring our first employee. By bringing on full-time staff, we’ll be able to develop high-quality and intellectually stimulating jobs that will allow us to scale our educational activities for the benefit of our community. If this is something you’d like to see happen in Miami, don’t hesitate to help us get there! Any and all support is sincerely appreciated by our hard-working team of volunteers.
That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know, sponsored by World Affairs Council of Miami. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.