Located just south and slightly west of Brickell and downtown, and slightly northeast of contiguous neighborhoods the Roads and Coral Gables, Little Havana is a famous neighborhood in central Miami-Dade County that takes its name from the masses of Cuban immigrants who have dominated the neighborhood since the early ’60s.
Impressively, unlike other working-class Hispanic strongholds like Wynwood, Little Havana has largely resisted gentrification by the upwardly mobile and English-speaking. Still, with its close geographical proximity to Brickell and downtown, that may be changing, with high-rise residential projects rising on its outskirts and other young professionals moving in for the still-cheap rents.
To this day, Little Havana remains one of the few in Miami to enjoy a distinct flavor, with most of the business being conducted in Spanish and many residents living and working in the same area. The area boasts a walkable, central business district with restaurants, shops, and even Cuban cigar and music shops, and as such makes a great place for visitors to spend a day strolling.
Calle Ocho is the colloquial name for the stretch of S.W. Eighth Street bordered on the east by I-95 and by S.W. 27th Avenue to the west, or even further, in some opinions, to S.W. 42nd Avenue/Le Jeune Road. On the easternmost blocks, it forms the beating heart of the neighborhood, harboring both resident-owned independent business, restaurants, and historic landmarks and tourist attractions.
This street is where you will find the neighborhood’s Walkway of the Stars, a Hollywood Boulevard-style commemorative sidewalk devoted to Cuban entertainment stars like Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, and Gloria Estefan. Other landmarks along Calle Ocho include Domino Park (where, as the name indicates, elderly exiles come to play dominos all day), the Tower Theater, St. Bosco Catholic Church, and a number of gift shops selling Cuban-flavored souvenirs.
Calle Ocho Festival
Calle Ocho is also the site of a huge annual festival of the same name. As part of the overall Carnaval Miami celebration, each spring, all of S.W. Eighth Street shuts down for a gigantic, open-air street fair that lasts all weekend. In recent years, the focus of the fair has grown to incorporate all of the various Latin-American countries represented in the Miami population.
Thousands throng the streets for a mix of vendors and ethnic food stalls, but a central part of this is live entertainment. Various publications and radio stations sponsor stages placed strategically throughout the festival, where urban and tropical music stars alike perform free concerts for fans.
For visitors and locals alike, one of the best ways to experience the artistic and cultural life of Little Havana is during the monthly Viernes Culturales, or “Cultural Fridays.” Held on the last Friday of every month, the free event is a mix of street fair and gallery stroll, with businesses staying open late and live music filling the streets.
Unlike many other Latin-American and Miami events, though, this starts relatively early, lasting from about 7 p.m. to about midnight. A good starting point is Maximo Gomez Park, central to the neighborhood’s core at S.W. 8th Street and S.W. 15th Avenue. Visit www.viernesculturales.org for the latest details.
Major Points of Interest
ArtSpoken Performing Arts Center
Bay of Pigs Museum and Library
Centro Cultural Espanol
Cuban Memorial Boulevard Park
Domino Park (Maximo Gomez Park)
St. John Bosco Catholic Church
Jose Marti Park
La Carreta Restaurant
La Casa de Tula
Manuel Artime Theater
Miami-Dade County Auditorium
Municipio de Santiago de Cuba
Padilla Cigar Factory Plaza de la Cubanidad
Walkway of the Stars
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