Miami on Thursday celebrated its 115th anniversary as a city, a city that over the years has become the Hispanic capital of the United States and currently hosts the Latin American headquarters of some of the world's largest companies and provides one the hemisphere's most multicultural leisure destinations.

"Miami is the closest Latin American city to the United States. All of Europe and Asia have taken note that Miami is the real bridge to Latin America," Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado told Efe in an interview.

He said that in the first six months of this year some $450 million in real estate investment - much of it from Europe and Asia - have come to the city, "10 times more than in all of 2010."

The largest recent real estate operation has been that carried out by a Malaysian group that decided to buy for $236 million the magnificent enclave where The Miami Herald and its Spanish-language sister publication, El Nuevo Herald are located.

"Companies from Taiwan are coming that are planning to establish themselves here (their) regional headquarters for Latin America. Also from China ... and of course from Spain, which is showing more and more interest in Miami," the mayor emphasized, particularly noting that the Spanish banks are "tremendously active" in the city: "They have more vigor than those of any other nation in attracting clients and investors."

"For the big corporations, to be in Miami is to be in the Caribbean and Latin American, although on U.S. soil, with the security guarantees that that implies," Regalado said.

"Here there are no kidnappings or problems like those of other big cities in Latin America," the mayor emphasized, though acknowledging that crime has increased in Miami, the hub of a metropolitan area of more than 5 million people that is home to one of the largest concentrations of Hispanics in the country.

Miami is one of the best-known cities for its beaches, mansions of the rich and famous and, above all, South Beach, which has the largest concentration of art deco construction in the world.

"We enjoy a unique mix (of people), which is creating a cultural life and nightlife that compete with that of any other big city. It's not New York, but it has its own mark of identity," he said.

Founded on July 28, 1896, with a decisive push by the rich widow Julia Tuttle and her effort to ensure that the railroad would reach her property, the most significant moment in the city's 115 years came with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.

It was then that Miami began to receive hundreds of thousands of Cuban families who settled in the city and changed its character forever.

Miami went from being a mere tourist destination for Americans to a city inhabited mainly by Cubans and, with the passage of time, by other Latin American groups to the point that more than half the local population speaks Spanish.

With an eye toward the future, the mayor said he was convinced that the city will continue growing as a nerve center for the Hispanic world and a real estate investment location.

"Miami has a very promising future, both economically and (in terms of) diversity," Regalado emphasized.