Miami: Little Havana

On January 1st 1959, a young lawyer named Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator who had been ruling the island of Cuba. Shortly after, he became a fresh new dictator himself. His alliance with the Soviet Union, confiscation of private property, and suppression of personal rights provoked a massive exodus of Cubans. Most of them fled from the capital city: Havana, to the closest city to the north: Miami. By the mid 1960’s the area was already known as Little Havana and the rest is history. For almost six decades the flow of Cubans has continued, sometimes as a trickle, sometimes as massive migrations such as the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and the rafter crisis of 1994. Over a million Cubans live in Miami now. The city is also home to a mixture of people from every single Latin American country.

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In today’s video we are visiting historic Little Havana, the area the Cuban migrants made their home in the 1960’s. It is perhaps, at its core, a little too commercialized, a little too touristy, but the experience is still somewhat authentic.

Nowadays, Little Havana is a huge area. Most of Southwest Miami, culturally speaking, can be considered  Little Havana, and there’s also Hialeah, our neighboring city to the Northwest, also mostly hispanic. Today, however, we are going to concentrate on two blocks of SW 8th Street that have been preserved as historic Little Havana. It was originally the Latin Quarter project in the 1990’s, in which they remade the sidewalks and made the Latin Walk of Fame. Then a bunch of nightclubs opened, the tour companies took notice and started stopping right here, by these two blocks between 13th and 15th avenues. On the last Friday of every month they celebrate Viernes Culturales, a small fair celebrating hispanic culture.

Some of the main landmarks in the area include the Bay of Pigs Memorial, the Historic Tower Theater, and the Domino Park. For authentic Cuban food I would probably recommend El Exquisito, El Pub, or El Cristo. I haven’t really eaten in any of the other places, but when they have a guy singing the Guantanamera by the door, that pretty much telegraphs it is catered towards tourists, and you are probably going to get an overpriced experience. If you want Cuban food with a twist, perhaps Ball & Chain is the place for you. For desert I recommend the Azucar Ice-cream Company, which is located right next door to the Ball & Chain.

It shouldn’t take you more than two or three hours to explore this little touristy slice of Little Havana. A lot of Miami is culturally the same, and the Cuban coffee will taste as good in any other corner cafeteria in the area. Basic conversational Spanish is not necessary but it will help you communicate in some of the less touristy areas.

I also encourage you to explore the other culinary option Miami has to offer, since we have people here from all over Latin America. We probably have the best parrilladas outside Argentina, the best churrascarias outside of Brazil, and the best pupusas outside of El Salvador, so feel free to explore and go outside your comfort zone.

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