We at Calle Ocho News have had the pleasure of building relationships with people like Corinna Moebius who was born and raised in New England. A resident of Little Havana since 2006, and a cultural anthropologist and public historian who will receive her doctorate from Florida International University this summer, she is also the co-author of the book, “A History of Little Havana.” Her walking tours are based on her extensive research on Little Havana, as well as her in-depth knowledge of Cuban and Latin American history. The fact that Corinna Moebius has led walking tours of Little Havana since 2006, when she served as director of Viernes Culturales/Cultural Fridays is impressive. It is just one of the things that make her tour unique.
Little Havana is a neighborhood that embodies all that Hispanics are about. I think that one of the most amazing things about Little Havana is the fact that a lot of the tour guides are not Hispanic themselves, which is an irony. You would think that Miami born Hispanics would be interested in teaching people about their own history or culture, but that is not the reality. You know how the saying goes, what one person does not appreciate or value the other will treasure.
Corinna Moebius does not settle for the usual script about Little Havana shared by most tour guides. She battles stereotypes about Cubans and other Latinos. Instead of talking about Little Havana as if it were some kind of museum exhibit of “Cuban culture,” she shares fascinating details about the groups that were involved in developing the Latin Quarter, the histories of monuments in Cuban Memorial Park, neighborhood politics, the symbols used in local murals and artwork, and even the histories behind everyday rituals like smoking a cigar or drinking Cuban coffee.
Her extensive knowledge of Cuban and U.S. history—and not just Miami history—allows her to connect the story of Cuban emigres in Miami to the story of Cuban emigres who arrived decades earlier in places like Tampa, Key West and New York. Corinna can explain why there’s a monument to Antonio Maceo in Cuban Memorial Park (it’s not what you expect), the secrets of the ceiba that go far beyond its use in Afro-Cuban religions, and why La Virgen de Regla is the patron saint of Little Havana. She can explain why the so-called Madonna in Cuban Memorial Park does not in fact depict the Madonna. While most tour guides tend to focus on the accomplishments of Cuban emigres who arrived in the 1960's and 1970's, Corinna discusses the contributions of people to the neighborhood in a much bigger time frame—before 1959 and up to the present day—but she does focus on the contributions of Latinos/Hispanics. She is also able to speak in depth about Little Havana’s non-Cuban Latino groups.
In terms of cultural traditions, she can explain a lot more about cigars than how one is made or smoked: she is able to talk about the history of tobacco in Cuba, and what the famed Cuban anthropologist Fernando Ortiz said about tobacco versus sugar--and why. She delves into the history of the rumbera figure you see everywhere in the tourist district (holding the maracas) and shares the history of Afro-Cuban rumba. Corinna has extensive knowledge about Cuban religions and fraternal orders as well, including Regla de Ocha (Santería), Palo, Espiritismo, Abakuá, and Los Caballeros de la Luz. For music and dance lovers, Corinna includes music samples connected to specific sites along the tour. She connects the songs to the sites and explains the music --including Cuban son, mambo, cha cha cha, danzón, timba, Orisha music and dance, Palo, rumba, etc. When asked, she can demonstrate the dances! She can set up private tours that are followed by dance lessons and performances by well-known Little Havana dance professionals.
She is offering group tours for a limited time and also specializes in custom and private tours for groups of up to 25 people.
See www.littlehavanaexperiences.com for details and tour availabilities.
Rosi R. Rodriguez
Editor in Chief