The music of salsa and merenga, aroma of cafe cubano and the smell of cigar smoke – Little Havana is an islet of America Latina in Miami.
The area was primarily a Jewish community until about 40 years ago, when in 1959 Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba and thus sparked a mass exodus to the U.S. The “freedom flights” of the 1960s brought thousands of Cubans to Florida’s southern shores and altered the demographic makeup of Miami, the closest urban center.
Miami Little Havana
Little Havana of Miami is not a city within a city, but really a small world unto itself. Spanish is the predominant language here, and you’ll run into plenty of people who speak no English. Although in recent years many Nicaraguans, Hondurans and other immigrants have moved into the neighborhood, it remains a Cuban stronghold where the restaurants, nightclubs, theaters and cigar shops are authentically Cuban.
Little Havana occupies 10 square blocks, southwest of downtown Miami. The heart of Little Havana is Calle Ocho. Its official name is Southwest Eight Street, but people used to call it in Spanish “Calle Ocho”.
The entire length of Calle Ocho is lined with Cuban shops, cafes, record stores, pharmacies, and clothing and (most amusing) bridal shops. Latin flavour is everywhere. Signs and billboards are in Spanish. Everything is authentic: from the fruit stands and cigar factories to the eat-at windows of the cafeterias where patrons passionately discuss politics.
Miami Little Havana
Cultural activities are blossoming along with art galleries, studios and theaters. Cultural Fridays take place the last Friday of each month along Calle Ocho and feature music, dance, poetry, visual arts and theater. The historic Tower Theater is alive with performances, cultural and educational programs and multicultural films while Teatro Ocho is home to Spanish-language theater.
Little Havana is the best place in Miami to try Latin cuisine. There are a variety of restaurants serving authentic Cuban dishes and delicacies and others serving traditional Spanish, Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian and Argentinean food. Take a great plate of lechon asado con platinitos maduros y congris (roast pork with fried plantains and rice and beans). If you’re not quite as hungry, just sidle up to one of the open-air lunch counters and order a medianoche, sandwich cubano or some empanadas.