Little Havana - A Glimpse of Cuba in Miami

Written by Muhammad Qadeer

Miami is one of the most diverse cities in the United States. The multi-ethnic city is home to an eclectic mix of culture, cuisine, and attractions that contribute to it being a dynamic cultural destination. One of the most colourful neighbourhoods in Miami is Little Havana - where a majority of the Cuban diaspora is concentrated. The vibrant community is abundant in Latin-inspired eateries, curb-side food vendors, cigar shops, rum bars, concert venues and art galleries. Little Havana is perhaps the best depiction of Hispanic culture in the US.

A Journey into the Fabric of Latin America

Little Havana boasts a rich cultural heritage with the highest number of Cuban diaspora living in the city. Little Havana started becoming the anchor point of Cuban people fleeing from the Cuban Revolution and its repercussions during the 1950s and the 1960s. Miami’s proximity to Cuba meant most people fled to the coastal city to find refuge. Aided by the 1962 Migration and Refugee Assistance act, the refugees settled into Miami and slowly began to have a presence in the city. Today, Little Havana is home to a large Hispanic population - who have helped shape Little Havana into an epicenter of Latin culture.

The charm about Little Havana is that there is always something happening - from watching the locals competing in intense domino games to the absolutely delicious curb-side taco sellers, Little Havana is a happening town that never sleeps. Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do when in Little Havana.

Sight-Seeing Tours

With so much to do in the mini town, one can be easily spoiled for choice. So, it is advisable to book a sight-seeing tour to explore the best that the city has to offer. Well-informed guides would take you to cultural sites and share memorable stories from the past that make this neighbourhood tick. The guides will be on hand to show you around the fascinating landmarks as well as unheralded gems dotted throughout the vibrant community. A distinctive feature of the neighbourhood is witnessing vendors rolling up cigars at places such as Little Havana Cigar Factory. Also, don’t be surprised if you see locals shaking their legs to the tunes of Latin music around open-air restaurants and shops.

Eateries in Little Havana

One of the best facets about Little Havana is its eclectic cuisine that takes inspiration from the culinary traditions of the Latin American world. You can stop-by one of the many window eateries commonly known as “ventanitas” grab warm and scrumptious croquetas, savoury pastries and the iconic Cuban coffee that keeps the whole of Miami awake. One of the most celebrated dining spots in Little Havana is the Versailles Restaurant. Despite having a name with French connotations, the place is renowned for serving up authentic Cuban cuisine since 1971. It’s also a great place to have a chit chat with the locals who gather outdoors at the walk-up windows. Another notable place you would want to visit is the Los Pinareños Fruteria - a fresh fruit and juice market that has been going strong since 1960. Visitors can replenish themselves by ordering tropical treats such as, mangoes, papayas, sugarcanes, smoothies or even a slushy.

Experience the Walk of Fame

As a way to pay tribute to renowned personalities from Cuba, the walk of fame at Calle Ocho is a must-visit attraction. Adorned with pink marble stars, it is the Cuban version of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The sidewalk features world famous Latin celebrities; including Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz, among other soap stars and singers from the 80s to the present.

Watch Art at Futurama

Futurama is Little Havana’s very own arts and crafts center. The facility includes a workshop where artists from various walks of life converge to get their creative juices flowing. Moreover, a meticulous collection of art pieces from underground artists as well as a studio are accessible at Futurama on weekdays as well as during Viernes Culturales.

Visit Marlins Park

Marlins Park is a unique architectural marvel in the heart of Little Havana. It resembles a space object from the outside yet a conventional, baseball venue from the inside. The retractable stadium is a cosy place for a fun day out with family and friends to watch a game and gorge on delectable food from the numerous stalls selling burgers, skewers, croquetas, tacos, obies and many other Cuban delicacies.

Explore Viernes Culturales

Viernes Culturales combines art and entertainment to give you the best of both worlds. It's a monthly event that's been going on for 19 years on the third Friday of the month. Viernes Culturales takes place between 13th and 17th avenues on Calle Ocho and boasts plenty of fun-filled activities.

The live music and dancing, as well as the art exhibitions visible through gallery walks and Pachanga, an old-school Latin type of music distinguished by cheeky lyrics, abundance of rhythms, and a vibrant and celebratory style of dancing, are the main attractions of Viernes Culturales.