Little Havana

Mural on the wall next to my favourite breakfast spot.

Mural on the wall next to my favourite breakfast spot.

My Airbnb in Miami was situated just two blocks from 8th Street, or Calle Ocho, the centre of the Cuban community in Miami, aka Little Havana.  In truth, many of the original Cubans no longer live in little Havana, although more recently 2nd or 3rd generation Cubans have been returning, lured by cheaper rents.

The part of 8th Street normally referred to as ‘little Havana’ is the part between 12th and 17th avenues. Just a small area of a few blocks, yet it is teeming with cafes, restaurants, cigar shops and art galleries.  On the street the people speak almost exclusively Spanish.

Roosters are considered lucky. There are many roosters on the street.

Roosters are considered lucky. There are many roosters on the street.

A good place to start exploring Calle Ocho is Domino Park, where the older cuban community, dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ (regardless of the day) meet up to play dominos or chess.

Domino Park, they only started allowing women to play comparatively recently

Domino Park: they only started allowing women to play comparatively recently

And opposite the park there is Azucars, an excellent ice cream shop

And opposite the park there is Azucars, an excellent ice cream shop

Nearby, on the junction with 13th, is an eternal flame in memory to those who died in the Bay of Pigs.  There are several monuments there arranged in a little park, plus the Bay of pigs museum is nearby on 9th street.

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Cubans, the older generation in particular, are often keen to discus (Cuban) politics

The Cuban music spills out onto the street when you walk along.  There are lots of places to go and enjoy a drink and a bit of music.  The ball and chain has been on Calle Ocho since the 1930s, when it welcomed  jazz greats such as Count Basie.

A man dances salsa, alone and completely un self-conscious, at the Ball and Chain

A man dances salsa, alone and completely un self-conscious, at the Ball and Chain

Towards the end of my trip, I read somewhere (Wikitravel actually) that the part of Little Havana where I was staying (SW 15th avenue) was considered a little dangerous, with gang activity and such. I had been wandering around quite happily before I read this.  The advice was, ‘don’t wander into the sparsely populated bits after dark’, which is probably good advice for the whole of Miami (or any other city really), and not just Little Havana.

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