Miami: A Caribbean Cache

 
 

Eliza Myers
Published January 11, 2018

When families from Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Caribbean arrived in Miami, they brought with them colorful art, carefully rolled cigars, foot-stomping music and other cultural customs. Four heritage neighborhoods preserve these vibrant cultures with museums, art galleries, historic buildings, restaurants and other attractions.

Groups can immerse themselves in these intriguing traditions by watching a show at the Lyric Theater or exploring Bahamian art in Coconut Grove. Various attractions also offer hands-on experiences, such as rolling a cigar at a Cuban cigar factory or learning a hip-shaking dance at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.

“A lot of people think of Miami as just the water and the weather, but these heritage neighborhoods broaden the scope of the area,” said Connie Kinnard, vice president, multicultural tourism and development. “They have a lot of art and entertainment to offer. We are promoting them more than ever.”

Little Havana

One does not simply roll a Cuban cigar. The three-step process involves twisting, binding, pressing and rolling.

Groups can attempt this handed-down tradition by rolling their own cigars at one of the many cigar factories in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Even those who don’t want to smoke a cigar will find the process fascinating.

Cuban cigars came to Miami when more than a half-million Cubans fled their country after Fidel Castro took over in 1959. The refugees settled in what became known as Little Havana, which turned the area into a sort of cultural museum.

Guests might feel they’ve left the country as they walk down cobblestone streets past colorfully painted and mosaic-tiled murals. The beat of rumba music and the smells of fresh cortado and other delicacies permeate the air. Locally owned bakeries, open-air fruit markets, coffee stands and restaurants line the streets, making it easy to taste the sweet and savory Cuban flavors.

To take home a new skill, groups can learn salsa steps at a local club.

“Little Havana is one of our most established historic neighborhoods when it comes to leisure travel,” said Kinnard. “It is walkable with lots of culture, history and hops. If you haven’t been to Cuba, you can get some of those experiences in Little Havana.”

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