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Little Havana/Calle Ocho Travel Guide

Little Havana: Culture

Just when people began giving up on Calle Ocho (for a time, even die-hard Cubans rarely came here from their more suburban neighborhood homes) things started to change. By the 1990s, new waves of Latin American immigrants began settling in the area. Recent arrivals from Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua started their own small shops and restaurants.

A long-time open-air Cuban cafeteria on the corner of 14th and Calle Ocho turned into a gaily-decorated Nicaraguan place seemingly overnight.

Calle Ocho, the main street of Little Havana is a true melting pot of Latin culture.

For almost 30 years, Calle Ocho or 8th Street, the main thoroughfare of Little Havana was vibrant and alive with the sights and sounds of Cuban culture. There were restaurants, small shops, Cuban food stores, and fruit markets. In the beginning, when everyone was poor, an outing consisted of a stroll down Calle Ocho to take in the night air followed by a pastry and a bottle Materva or Malta from La Gran Via Bakery. Calle Ocho was always crowded at night with people sitting on bus benches and conversing or standing around the “ventanitas” (coffee windows) or in the makeshift Domino Park, then just a vacant lot.

Cubans who lived nearby shopped in small neighborhood bodegas much as they did in Cuba. On a typical Saturday, the sounds of Cuban music filled the street and the sidewalks buzzed with energy and activity. The great commercial thoroughfare of Calle Ocho was a magnet that drew Cubans from all over Miami. The street's specialty stores, restaurants, and clubs were major draws as was the Tower Theater, which presented American Movies with Spanish subtitles.
At the same time Calle Ocho was becoming multicultural, Cuban and Latin artists, initially attracted by cheap rent and a thriving Latin vibe, opened a dozen galleries and studios to display their talents. The art deco Tower Theater, with its 40-foot steel tower, became a cultural center with special events and exhibits. A burgeoning interest in Cuban cigars drew visitors to Calle Ocho cigar factories and soon mini tour buses were disgorging groups of camera-toting tourists up and down 8th Street.
Teatro Poster
Teatro de Bellas Artes
Teatro de Bellas Artes preserves Cuban culture and humor in Little Havana.
Jorge Castillo: There is an important cultural gem in Little Havana called the Teatro de Bellas Artes.

Raúl Musibay: We can only recommend this for people who are fluent in Spanish because all of the plays are written by and performed by Cuban actors.

Jorge Castillo: It even helps to be Cuban to understand a lot of the humor!

Raúl Musibay: They present eight or nine different productions each year.

Glenn Lindgren: Those not fluent in Spanish may still enjoy the Midnight musical follies and the female impersonator acts -- if that's the kind of thing you like...

Teatro de Bellas Artes Lobby
Glenn drinking coco frio
Religious offertory candles
Enjoying a coco frio.
Religious offertory candles.
Tower Art Center Exterior
Tower Art Center Exterior 2
Jorge Castillo: The Tower Art Center has been completely renovated. It's a beautiful example of Art Deco architecture. They show Spanish language movies and are a location for several cultural events.
Glenn Lindgren: One attraction that represents what Little Havana can be once again is Viernes Culturales en la Histórica Pequeña Habana or just Viernes Cultural: Cultural Friday. On the last Friday of every month they turn several blocks of Calle Ocho into one big Latin street party.
Street Dance
Stage Musicians
Jorge Castillo: We recommend Viernes Cultural to anyone who is visiting Miami and wants to get a taste of Cuban culture. A typical evening includes live music, Cuban dance, and street theater.
Cuban Sweatshirt
Street Band

Glenn Lindgren: Although Cultural Fridays are sill confined to that "magic" area between 14th and 18th – this will change with time – merchants from all over Little Havana do have an opportunity to set up shop along the sidewalk.

Jorge Castillo: Cultural Friday is THE BEST WAY to experience Calle Ocho and Little Havana. It is a safe and fun evening event that is suitable for the whole family.

Raúl Musibay: You never know what to expect. The music is very good. There are usually several bands playing, most noticeably next to Domino Park, where they block off the street, set up chairs, and erect a portable stage.

Jorge Castillo: Both local and nationally known Latin artists have been known to appear here. Be sure to get there early if you want to grab a seat.

Art for sale
Jorge and Raul with Artwork
Glenn Lindgren: The evening is also a venue for local artists to show their work. You can buy many beautiful paintings and ceramics.

Cultural Fridays in Little Havana

Calle Ocho: Restaurants

Continued on Next Page

There's More! Read On:

Calle Ocho | Calle Ocho Culture | Calle Ocho Restaurants

Calle Ocho Shopping | Calle Ocho Artists | Calle Ocho Sights

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