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Brazilian investors buy Miami real estate. Haitian earthquake survivors attend South Florida schools. It's clear what happens in Latin America and the Caribbean has a profound effect on South Florida.WLRN’s coverage of the region is headed by Americas editor Tim Padgett, a 23-year veteran of TIME and Newsweek magazines.He joins a team of reporters and editors at the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and NPR to cover a region whose cultural wealth, environmental complexity, vast agricultural output and massive oil reserves offer no shortage of important and fascinating stories to tell.

Colombia's Festive "Clásico" Soccer Tradition Debuts In Miami This Weekend

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Tim Padgett
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WLRN.org
Medellin fans cheer their team on at FIU Stadium Wednesday night.

Colombians are the largest non-Cuban Latino group in South Florida. And what do they miss most about home? It might not be their world-famous coffee. In fact, their love for soccer is making history this week in Miami.

When you're talking about Colombian soccer, you're really talking about Cali and Medellín. The cross-town rivalries between the professional teams in each of those cities – Deportivo vs. América in Cali and Independiente vs. Nacional in Medellín – are some of the most celebrated in South America.

When the two clubs in Cali and the two in Medellín play each other, the games are called Los Clásicos, “The Classics.” And this week, for the first time since los clásicos started 85 years ago, they’re being held outside Colombia – at Miami’s Florida International University Stadium.

Wednesday night the teams played warm-up matches before Saturday night’s marquee games. Miami tattoo artist Andres Ramirez is a paisa, or Medellín native – and a big Independiente fan.

“Yeah, all my life, since I was born," Ramirez said as fellow fans beat drums and sang club anthems. "I’m from Medellín, you know, and we’re very happy to see them here in Miami. It’s a great feeling if you’ve got that passion, ‘cause you know these are the teams that we love.”

John Reynal, president of the event’s promoter, OnSide Entertainment, says it’s another sign of the Colombian boom here.

“The fact that the turnout is so great when we bring Colombian teams speaks highly of that," says Reynal. "And I think all these tournaments we produce with South American teams in Miami are beginning to show people around here that this is a soccer town.”

Saturday’s doubleheader begins at 4 pm at FIU, and includes a Colombian food and music festival.