Bring your mask, camera, antibacterial and appetite to enjoy Calle 8 as a “local” tourist
Let me take you through a journey down Calle 8 that you will greatly appreciate whether you are a local or a tourist. Calle 8 like many others knew things would be difficult, but what we had no way of knowing was for how long this would all last or what would change. Like everyone else we have all wondered what the impact that the p-word (PANDEMIC) would have on our beloved communities.
What will we call “normal” from here on? What has happened is in the past, now is now, and this “thing “is still going on. Calle 8 like its people, the real protagonists, are not going to fall into lament because they believe in keeping the dream alive. Feeding the vision requires paying rent, taxes, bills and so we must move “PA’LANTE” forward. Our spirits are strong and the Cafecito is still brewing, so yes Calle 8 will be here for a while, but your support is essential as well as rewarding. Here in no particular order, you can find a list of 8 things you can do on Calle 8 that are very entertaining.
1. A stroll down Cuban Memorial Boulevard
Not precisely Calle 8, but your starting point may be the Bay of Pigs Monument on SW 13th Av and SW 8 St. A precious walkway lined with trees, monuments and benches taking you several blocks South via a well-kept-up path through the median dividing an almost non-existent traffic in this peaceful, historic neighborhood once known as Conch Hill.
Our Ceiba Tree and Mother Mary sit at the beginning of the Cuban Memorial Boulevard walkway, administered by the City of Miami Parks and Recreation department. Look at how much shade awaits you and right around the corner you can stop by Los Pinareños for a Guarapo (freshly pressed sugarcane juice) and allow yourself to chill. You owe it to yourself
Little Havana is full of life with plenty of color and groove. Here even the air becomes cultural manifestation which serves as a special filter for your lens. There are plenty of photo opportunities for all because Calle 8 is inviting as well as inspiring with colorful murals, Domino Park, our people, local design, and finally the roosters! The list of possibilities is endless! Little Havana welcomes cameras of all sizes and ages and their respective photographer. No matter how long you are here or how many times you come back, this is one subject/setting that always has something new and fresh to offer the Henri Cartier-Bresson in you.
3. Cuban coffee known as “Cafecito”
Miami is an exceptional “Coffee-City” and Little Havana is where it is at. What a better place to experience having yourself a “Cafecito” or a “Cortadito” while engaging in chit-chat with perfect strangers. Maybe even stand around a streetside “Ventanita” taking in that well-deserved breather. Do it just like in the movies! This is one authentic Miami experience that is so worth the eighty cents (or so) an excellent shot of caffeine may cost? Do not forget to tip… There is more to just the stir and brew of espresso over sugar. Cafecito is a cultural expression and La Colada Gourmet (1518 Calle Ocho) takes their time to show you how it is done.
4. Wine and Dine
Little Havana is an exciting place to be so visiting and exploring our culinary options would not be far from expected. Young, fresh, trendy ideas and concepts, award-winning chefs and mixologists, in outstanding settings make their way among hardcore 305 classics and legends (if not landmarks) … for all tastes and budgets. Enough could not be written…but now…. restaurants are open with outdoor seating, bars not yet. Restaurants everywhere need to survive even if that means adapting and complying with new and consistently changing ordinances and practices. The need to support small businesses is more essential than ever. Nobody opens a restaurant to wait for government bailouts, a dream or a vision is like a fire that must be fueled, and the industry is hurting. The very same industry that has given so much to our community, if there was ever a time to come order food and dine on Calle 8, it is now... and not ignoring the recommendations and regulations now in place. If you do not wish to go out or to comply, you can always use the several options for food delivery or take out. The only way many have stayed afloat in these tough times.
5. A quest for art
Whether it is fine art, street art, folk art, pop art, art history, or maybe researching politics in art, Little Havana is the place to be. If art could become a physical place in time, Calle 8 would be a “Masterpiece” and that is art as a means of communication and self-identity. Breathtaking as a collective, it is truly reflective of our community, colorful, loud, vibrant, and spontaneous. Take it in and allow our proud and longer standing than others art scene show you the Calle 8 way. Crowds now are at a minimum, but many local artists and their studio-galleries are within walking distance. Many of them are willing to spare some time to give you more insight. As your personal quest for art pulls you to and through Calle 8, you shall find yourself feeling welcomed and at ease here. You may want to come back, you may never want to leave. That is art at work.
6. Food tours
What better way to explore the neighborhood, and our community than through food? Little Havana has plenty to offer and it can be overwhelming even for locals. That is when we turn to the professionals. Culinary tours are always a popular choice being that they are convenient and attractive deals offering a guided walking tour and a chance to try several local offerings. You do not have to be a tourist from afar to want to want to peek in on what here in Little Havana we already know about. Not only where to eat but how, why, and maybe even a who or when.
The tourism industry has been bitten hard, but far from beat. Nothing is the same anywhere but pulling together is more necessary than ever and the will is strong. The best offers are found online and as a rule, be sure to do your research before you make your choice. Excellent time to witness what Calle 8 is about, and food is always a good excuse for anything.
Local tour operator Anneliese Morales, who contributes to Calle 8 tourism is restless with excitement for the neighborhood and always ready and willing to show you around.
7. Shop and support for small businesses
Nothing good ever comes easy, the uphill struggle to bring this vision of Calle 8 to life has cost many their sweat and tears. Not everybody makes it, but that is what The American Dream or any dream is about for that matter. Calle 8 is an emerging front of local art and design, that has proven itself independent, self-sufficient, and so very “local”. Support the small shops, explore, and delight yourself, help keep others dream alive and make some of your own come true in our “Street of dreams”
You can even be a tourist in your own hood to appreciate what our local talent has to offer. Come by and get that unique gift or craft for your own display at home that will make a nice impression and shout out “VIVA CALLE 8!”.
8. People watching
Although Little Havana is listed as a tourist attraction, tourism is not everything. This is one of the biggest and most densely populated parts of Miami. A working-class immigrant neighborhood is the core, this is where we call home. Calle 8 is more like the Celia Cruz of our ‘hood, elegantly dressed and styled to impress and to never fall short of expectations. We are proud of our street, but it is still “La Ocho” to residents and where many essential businesses are located, where we catch our buses to Brickell and downtown to work. Eight Street is also and always has been an important gathering point. The heart of The Latin Quarter in a hot and crazy urban setting where many stories and dreams cross paths. Not all are of success. So much life, an awesome setting, if you are not the type to judge, sit down somewhere, or visit the Domino Park, get yourself a cafecito and feel free to watch, observe, and chill. Like a local would. Absorb the heat and reflect on what may have really brought you to Calle 8. Remember that Little Havana is like an Ellis Island, a point of entry (or transit), a crossroads, where we have set up and call home or “el barrio”. This is where the American Dream ends and becomes reality, so maybe a stranger suddenly starts a conversation with you, feel at ease, follow common sense, sometimes people just need to talk. We all have so much to learn from each other.