The heart of Miami's Cuban exile community, Little Havana offers the most intensely Cuban atmosphere in the city. Here, the potent aroma of high-octane cafe Cubano permeates the air, and sweet sugarcane juice, called guarapo, is squeezed fresh to order.
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, and the zesty spirit of the island nation rings loud and clear.
Of particular interest are the Bay of Pigs Monument which pays tribute to the heroes of the foiled 1961 invasion of Cuba, Woodlawn Park Cemetery where three former presidents of Cuba are buried and Domino Park, a popular meeting spot for elderly Cuban gentlemen. Each March, Little Havana hosts Calle Ocho, the largest block party in the United States, and a colorful celebration of Hispanic American culture, music, food and dance.
The official name is Southwest Eight Street but everyone knows it as Calle Ocho, the artery that keeps the heart of Little Havana beating. Cubans who fled the island in 1960 recreated their community west of Brickell Avenue, imbuing it with nostalgia for their heritage.
The vibrant neighborhood, home also to many residents from Nicaragua and Honduras, has a distinct Latin flavor with signs and billboards en español and music to match. Everything is authentic: from the fruit stands and cigar factories to the eat-at windows of the cafeterias where patrons passionately discuss politics.
Visit the area’s quaint shops to find embroidered guayabera shirts, hand-rolled cigars and Latin music or explore gift shops offering unique items and Cuban memorabelia.
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.
Food plays an essential part of life in Little Havana from the anytime snacks of chicharones (fried pork morsels) to croquetas, pastelitos and sugary mouthfuls of merenguítos. Dining is infused with many cuisines. There are a variety of restaurants serving authentic Cuban dishes and delicacies and others serving traditional Spanish, Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian and Argentinean food.
Every March, thousands of revelers flock to the grand Hispanic street festival called Calle Ocho to celebrate the finale of Carnaval Miami. Little Havana is one of the best places to experience Cuban culture and Latin cuisine.