Man with grocery cart in Little Havana.

photo by: Cyn Lagos

March 5, 2018

Little Havana Me Importa: The Places and Faces That Define a Neighborhood

Always moving to its own rhythm, Little Havana is the beating heart of Miami and a cherished symbol of the American melting pot. From its role as a haven for Cuban Americans to its more recent incarnation as a home for immigrants from Central America and the Caribbean, these streets have been shaped by generations of people seeking community and making new lives for themselves. And along the way, they’ve created a place so beautiful and so complex that Little Havana has become one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the country.

In honor of the vibrant people and places that make this neighborhood special, the National Trust worked with Heineken USA and the Little Havana Me Importa Coalition to create an interactive museum exhibit inside Little Havana itself.

The exhibit invites audiences to step into the daily lives of ten local residents whose passion, creativity, and penchant for history is ensuring that future generations will experience the Little Havana we know today. Their stories are different and their backgrounds are diverse, but they all share a common love: the place they call home.

Below is just a taste of the full exhibit, currently on display at Little Havana’s Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street) through May 2018. Click here to read exhibit author Lia Seirotti's reflection on her experiences with Little Havana Me Importa.

Guillermina Hernandez owns the only open-air fruit market on Southwest 8th Street.

photo by: Cyn Lagos

Guillermina Hernandez is the matriarch of Los Pinarenos, the only open-air fruit market on Southwest 8th Street. For Guillermina, Little Havana has proven that immigrants can prosper from nothing. She hopes that doesn’t change. “To change Little Havana is to displace an entire tradition.”

Gabriela Rosado surveyed mom-and-pop shops in Little Havana as part of an internship with the National Trust.

photo by: Cyn Lagos

As an intern for the National Trust, Gabriela Rosado surveyed and interviewed the owners of local mom-and-pop shops. Gabriela says Little Havana is a space where dichotomous ethnic and social groups can coexist perfectly. “You can’t pin Little Havana down to a single, monolithic group.”

Suzanne Batlle, owner of an ice cream shop called Azucar.

photo by: Cyn Lagos

To walk into Suzanne Batlle’s ice cream shop, Azucar, is to be transported to a traditional living room from her grandmother’s native country of Cuba. Suzy describes Little Havana as an authentic and culturally sound community where people can take a stroll in a plaza, have coffee, smoke a cigar, and listen to a band, all in a matter of a few blocks. “Little Havana is not just a Cuban neighborhood—it’s a cultural Mecca.”

Dr. Paul George is HistoryMiami's resident historian.

photo by: Cyn Lagos

Dr. Paul George, HistoryMiami Museum’s resident historian, has become a celebrity among Miami historians over the years. In his opinion, Little Havana needs sensitive investors who can take this ideally positioned neighborhood and bring back its vibrant pedestrian life, turning it into a center-city destination that would continue to attract domestic and international press and tourism. He describes Little Havana as completely unexpected. “It truly is the anti-suburbia.”

By: Lia Seirotti

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