Little Havana, a Cuban in Miami piece of heaven!
Hola, Mi Amigos, Como Estas? It’s Jamaica Urban Legend with another report on our lovel neighbours Cuba
The types of fruit Angel Hernandez sells haven’t changed much over the last 48 years. There are still rows of guanabanas and mangos in Los Pinareños Fruteria, each wooden crate decorated with a Cuban flag stapled to the side. The people who pop into his Little Havana open-air fruit market, however, have shifted in recent years. His Cuban American regulars still swing by to pick up some fruit or to just talk politics, but so do Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans, and Mexicans.
The neighborhood where thousands of political exiles landed after the Communist takeover of Cuba in the late 1950s is now primarily Cuban in name and history only. As what’s happening in the rest of Miami, where just half of the city’s 70 percent Hispanic population is Cuban, Little Havana is diversifying. “Today, it’s more international, from many countries,” Hernandez says, leaning on his countertop decorated with old photos of the neighborhood and insignia from his time in Brigade 2506, the group of Cuban exiles who led the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961. His shop is just across the street from a boulevard where an eternal flame adorns the top of a memorial to that invasion, along with other marble and granite monuments of Cuban military heroes and national figures, stone reminders of a previous era in a neighborhood nine miles west of South Beach.
Hernandez knows quite well how the neighborhood has changed over the years. He doesn’t have to look any further than the ownership of his fruit market to see the progression. Before Hernandez took the business over in the 1960s, it had Jewish, white, and black proprietors, dating back to the turn of the century and in many ways matching the demographic shifts of the neighborhood. When Hernandez began selling fruit, Cubans were just moving in. Dilapidated after Jewish residents moved out of the city and black residents moved to neighborhoods further north, the area was one of the few places in Miami that was affordable. It became a landing zone for exiles fleeing Cuba. “That’s where the businesses began,” says Guillermo Grenier, a Cuban exile and professor of sociology at Florida International University, who co-authored a book on Little Havana. “That’s where the ideology of people getting together and hating Fidel Castro began. It was a very intense, dense environment.”
Cubans who arrived early in Miami never expected they would stay there long. They were only 100 miles from their home and thought the U.S. would soon intervene and kick Castro out of power. “They were sure of it,” says Grenier, who left Cuba in 1960 when he was 10. “They weren’t going to be there for 50 years. They were going to go back.” While the neighborhood became an incubator for counter-revolutionary activity, they also started to build a community.
As Cuban-owned businesses and restaurants began popping up, residents brought back elements of Cuban life.
Author: Ricardo – Jamaica