The geometric grid in which the big and modern Miami.
Even so, the new navigation technologies, the various gaudy sculptures of widespread roosters that represent the civic pride of the residents and the concentration of conceptually Cuban businesses make us sure that we have arrived in Little Havana.
As with any visitor, the main objective of the trip to this Cuban capital “B” is Calle ocho, the linear heart of the neighbourhood. We quickly memorize references.
We decided to choose perpendiculars to 16th or 17th Street. From these intersections, we walked along Ocho until we reached the picturesque Domino Park where we got free parking, a rare thing in those parts.
“Máximo Gómez” Park: the Center for Social and Political Assembly of Little Havana
Frequented by dozens of settled Cubans, the Domino “Máximo Gómez” Park functions as a sort of local assembly.
Near the entrance, several middle-aged men above and with hats typical of the mother island share two or three street benches. They also share the smoke of cigars that so many of them enjoy smoking.
In most cases, his exodus from the dictatorial suffocation imposed by the late Fidel Castro will not have been easy.
It may be the Latin way of speaking, but when we approach them, it gives us the idea that they celebrate freedom at the highest volume their vocal chords can reach.
The political debate is so heated that we fear that the disputers will leave for de facto paths. The continuous presence of a security guard in an untidy little cabin in a corner of Domino Park leads us to believe that, if it happens, it won't be the first time.
Little Havana and Cuban Florida's Contribution to Donald Trump's Election
At the time of our visit, Donald Trump had won the US presidency less than a month ago. His triumph in the state of Florida proved decisive. Against all expectations, the vote of Cuban-Americans in Miami was predominant for this result and a good part of analysts blamed Barack Obama.
On October 14, 2016, the outgoing president eased the embargo on Cuba by allowing US visitors to bring unlimited amounts of cigars and rum from the island. Twelve days later, Obama made the US abstain for the first time in a United Nations vote against that same embargo.
The measures will have especially displeased older Cuban-Americans who do not understand the relief of condemnation of the Cuban regime without opening the other side of the strait.
Trump, that one, didn't forgive. On October 25th, he met with the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association and received their support.
He also took advantage of the blessing to accuse Obama and Hillary Clinton of helping the regime now led by Raul Castro. At the same time, it intensified disputes never before dreamed of among Cuban families and different generations in exile or descendants.
The Colorful and Latin Life in Domino Park and Little Havana in General
As exuberant as it turned out, the discussion we were witnessing was nothing more than an expression of the unexpected conflict, extending to the dominoes tables where the pieces clashed under an infrequent playful tension.
We pushed for the Castilian and defeated the players' strangeness and reticence in the face of our approaching cameras at the ready. Some of the players are free to make fun of rivals with weaknesses: “Photograph the gringo here! He always wanted to be a model”, one of them shoots, making fun of the player on the side who hides the chime in his hands and his face under a cowbell hat.
We leave them for a moment. We investigate the mural in which figures of the Presidents of the Caribbean and South America appear, painted in 1994, when Miami hosted a summit of the Americas.
A new altercation, this time between two players, once again demands our attention and that of the security guard who hesitates between intervening and seeing what happens.
Beyond the park's railing, Calle Ocho occupies the lives of residents of Little Havana, these days it's not just Cubans anymore, although they keep arriving.
Calle Ocho and the Not So Emblematic Otras Calles of Little Havana
It now also includes Nicaraguans and Hondurans, African Americans and some 10% non-Hispanic whites, several of them new business owners in the most desirable areas of Miami, including Miami Beach.
We spent three weekends in Little Havana, over the gentle sunsets of the warm winter and dry season of Miami, with the sun melting into an almost communist orange west of the low houses and the simple neons claiming the retinas of outsiders .
Across from Domino Park, the Tower Theater shines with elegance.
During the late 50's and 60's, when countless Cuban refugees arrived in Miami and Calle Ocho welcomed the resumptions of the ferrymen and others, the films projected in their rooms served as a pastime but, even if unconsciously, as an introduction to the mode. of American life.
Little Havana's Tower Theater: A Window from the Neighborhood to the World
This happened for almost 60 years until, in 1984, the cinema was closed. In 2002, the state university of Miami Dade took over its destinies.
Since then, it has hosted the Miami International End Festival. These days, the room acts as a sort of beacon of Little Havana's multiculturalism.
It has a Miami Medea look and shows related films produced all over the world. The local Walk of Fame, which honors Latin stars from the world of entertainment, such as the Cuban salsa dancer Célia Cruz and the singer Glória Estefan, passes by.
Dusk enters the picture. We hurry to appreciate some more of the murals of Calle Ocho, its alleys and perpendicular streets graffiti with the beauty of an 8th Art. We get thirsty.
We enter a small bar-restaurant where an almost old Cuban man dines at the counter and has a convenient conversation with the maid who seduced him the most, all in the soft and musical Castilian of the Caribbean, with the Florida Keys e Key West, right down there.
The Eccentric Local Alcohol Limitations
We sat on three chairs to one side. we ask for one Smoothie and a Hatuey cerveza, Cuban Style Ale but produced in Florida as happened with everything that is Cuban in those parts, after the painful turning of the back decreed by the aggravation of the 1962 embargo.
“We only sell drinks here to those who also buy food!” informs us the young employee who soon returns to socialize with the senior client. "But is this a rule of Miami authorities or is it something here at the bar?" we retorted slightly indignantly.
"No, no! This one, for a change, is just from here at the bar. The boss there has his reasons.” “Well, if that's the case, we'll want two empanadas, like those over there. We'll choose them right there.”
We recover energy. Returning to Calle Ocho, we find ourselves in a night scene.
Without knowing very well how, we soon returned to the cinematographic field.
The Unexpected Conversation with an Pretender Samuel L. Jackson
In the image of Cuba, Little Havana is meaningless without its shops, factories and cigar halls.
We photographed one of them, the “Art District Cigars” when a customer inside the window decides to mess with us and animate the images. After a few minutes, we returned to the smoky shop.
Sitting in the company of a friend on a mini terrace at the door, the same cheeky man approaches us. We face him and we could have sworn we were facing Samuel L. Jackson but we don't want to be too hasty since, at least in the films he enters, Jackson is a real chameleon.
Stimulated by some alcohol and eager for socializing and fun, the man pulls on the cigar and the conversation while his friend remains on the defensive, intimidated by the media coverage he had previously seen us give to the establishment.
Until Alberto, a third partner, who had lived in Brazil, appeared there, he had friends there and insisted on practicing rusty Portuguese. And Marco, the owner of the establishment. Everyone seemed to know each other for a long time.
At that time, the African-American we were making fun of, introduced himself but was interrupted by the owner of the place. “Wait, this is when he's going to foist any name on you. But can't you guys see who he is? Does this face not tell you anything? It's Samuel L. Jackson, boys!”
We were stunned. After all, was it? “Confronted with our doubts, the until then, extroverted and shameless target of attention shows himself to be confused. “No, I'm nothing! He's crazy." We went back to examining your profile.
We found that either he wore it on purpose to go unnoticed, or the clothes he wore were too classic for the actor who gave life to Jules, the gangster always cool from “Pulp Fiction”. We decided to let the conversation flow but the situation only becomes more eccentric.
The Intervention of a Cuban Cyclist Who Was at War in Angola
A black cyclist passes by who seems to us inebriated. It starts by asking us for a few dollars but diversifies its approach and ends up finding out that we are Portuguese.
“Portuguese, I don't believe it! I was in the military. Do you know I was fighting in Angola?!” “Is this true?” we asked the group of friends, we were increasingly overwhelmed with so much uncertainty and surrealism.
“It's true that he was in a lot of places, but if I were you, I wouldn't care much. He is tired of inventing.”
If you believe his earlier words, the advice came from Lionel McKoy, not Samuel L. Jackson.
And if we continue to believe in him, Lionel was also a military man or ex-military man. He had passed through Lajes on a very windy day that made him even more impressed with the end-of-the-world in which, with effort, the plane he was following managed to land.
The email you wrote to us to keep in touch started with ussmidwaycv41, the name of a US aircraft carrier
The Missile Crisis that Preceded the Diaspora and the Foundation of Little Havana
In 1962, during the Missile Crisis, the cruiser USS Newport News and the USS Leary were the flagships of the US-imposed naval blockade with the aim of preventing the arrival of more nuclear-laden Soviet vessels to be installed in Cuba.
By that time, the United States and the Soviet Union had ultimately managed to avert a war that could have been apocalyptic.
On September 28, 1965, Fidel Castro announced that Cubans wishing to emigrate could do so starting on 10 October. More than a million and a half Cubans have moved from their home island to the United States.
Nearly one million now live in Florida, mostly in Miami, a city where a third of the population is of Cuban origin.
The Little Havana we were exploring is just Cuba's little American heartland.