Oct 022016
 

Little Havana

Calle Ocho, the Cuban district of Miami, Florida

Cubans started moving to Florida in the 1950s, but their numbers greatly increased in the 1960s after Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba. In Miami, the area they settled in became known as Little Havana. By 1980, Cuban exiles made up half the population of Miami.

Little Havana still thrives today. An area along SW 8th Street (Calle Ocho) between SW 12th and SW 17th Avenues is the heart of the district. It is a popular Miami tourist destination and one of my “must-sees” when I visited Miami.

Little Havana doesn’t look much like the city of Havana, but it has a definite Latin American vibe full of colour. Latin music plays in restaurants, bars and stores, spilling into the streets. Store signs are in Spanish. Restaurants feature Cuban specialties. You hear more Spanish spoken than English. (I actually found this true of Miami in general. Miami is a majority Hispanic city. Although Cubans are the largest group, there are also people from Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and other Central and South American countries.)

At one end of this stretch of Calle Ocho is Memorial Boulevard, a several block landscaped walkway along the median of SW 13th Avenue. It contains monuments commemorating significant Cuban events and freedom fighters.

Bay of Pigs Memorial, Little Havana, Miami

Monument in Memorial Plaza at top of Memorial Boulevard remembering the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion

Memorial Boulevard, Little Havana, Miami

Banyan tree-lined walkway

Madonna statue on Memorial Boulevard, Little Havana, Miami

Madonna statue (said to be illuminated by a ray of holy light each afternoon) in front of a ceiba tree

Memorial Boulevard monuments, Little Havana, Miami

A sampling of other monuments

At the other end of this stretch of Calle Ocho is a two-block art district with studios and galleries.

Futurama, Little Havana, Miami

Futurama houses a dozen artist studios

In between the art district and Memorial Boulevard are stores (“tiendas”), restaurants, bars, cafes, vibrant murals and brightly painted rooster statues. The roosters are the result of an art installation several years ago. I’ve read that roosters are an important symbol in Cuban culture.

Little Havana, Miami

Los Pinareños market, Little Havana

Los Pinareños Fruteria

Los Pinareños Fruteria is the oldest open-air market in Miami. Beside selling a selection of fruits and vegetables, it offers  Latin-inspired milkshakes, coffee and snacks amid an eclectic decor of vintage and kitschy items. We stopped here for a Café Cubano. There are a couple of variations of Cuban coffee you can order in Little Havana. Café Cubano (or Cafecito) is very strong Cuban coffee served in a small cup. It is very sweet. Café con leche is a Latin latte, steamed milk with a shot of Cuban coffee.

Los Pinareños Fruteria, Little Havana

Los Pinareños Fruteria

Little Havana

The street has several cigar shops

Murals in Little Havana, Miami

Sampling of murals

Domino Park, Little Havana, Miami

Men playing dominoes in Maximo Gomez Park, aka Domino Park

Calle Ocho Walk of Fame

Calle Ocho Walk of Fame recognizes Cuban celebrities

Tower Theater, Little Havana, Miami

Tower Theater, built in 1926 before Cubans came to this area, was the first theatre in Miami to air Spanish movies

Band in Little Havana

Live music can be found in many places

Vintage car in Little Havana

This parked vintage car reminded me of the other Havana, in Cuba

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center, Little Havana

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center

We stopped at Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center. Owned by Roberto Ramos, the place houses a free museum containing a collection of pre-revolutionary Cuban art and hosts a variety of music and dance events. Ramos escaped from Cuba in 1992. He had a 1953 painting “El Saxofonista” with him. After settling in Miami, he made several trips back to Havana, Cuba to collect works of art depicting Cuba from 1800 to 1958, many of which are on display here. We viewed the art on display and had a drink here – one of the best Mojitos I’ve ever had.

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center

Bar at Cubaocho

Signs in Little Havana

There are tour companies who offer guided tours of Little Havana. We chose to wander through the area on our own. It was reasonably easy to access via public transportation. Leisurely strolls, browsing through stores and galleries, and lingering over food and drink are a great way to soak up the ambiance of the area.

PIN ITLittle Havana

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  27 Responses to “Little Havana”

  1. When I lived in South Florida this used to be one of my “go to” tours with friends from out of town. You are so right about the Mojitos! Best ever! It’s a fun and interesting part of Miami.

  2. Now I love the looks of Cubaocho! That calls out for a visit and a drink, I think!

  3. Such an interesting part of Miami! I hope you thought of me when you viewed some of the beautiful art pieces. Thanks for the tour, Donna!

  4. I love this neighborhood and did a food tour of Little Havana and had an amazing discovery and eating tour….great post!

  5. This looks great! Been to Miami many times and never went to Little Havana. I don’t know why, but I know we are going next time we are in Miami. Thanks for the wake up call.

  6. This is a nice little tour through Little Havana. But I am antsy to take a big tour through the real Havana.

  7. You had a great tour of Little Havana, Donna! We didn’t have quite enough time to see it all, but what we saw we liked!

  8. The pictures make it look like a cozy and welcoming place. My husband was there many years ago and remarked that the food is quite good and the coffee quite strong–just the way he likes it.

  9. Like you, we wandered on our own,,.in 2011. You covered so much more detail. It is known as the 8th province of Cuba,,,Miami, that is!

  10. Looks like a wonderful tour of Little Havana. We were recently in Miami but didn’t have the time! Now you have me wanting to return!

    • Irene, Little Havana would make a nice tour for your next visit to Miami. No matter what city I visit there always seems to be things I couldn’t get to see and on the list for next time.

  11. We’re headed for the other Havana soon, so this post is a bit of a teaser…at least for dominoes in the square, music and cafecitos. And of course, if I ever get to Miami, Little Havana would be a draw for me, just for the markets and other food stops!

  12. This looks like an amazing area one we would enjoy exploring, I have saved the link fir when we get to the US

  13. Little Havana looks like such a colorful area of Miami! — fun too, what with jazz bars and all…

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