Like a lot of Americans, my first visit to Miami was to take a cruise. I had a very short time in the city, and even though all I got to see that trip were tourist places like Bayside Marketplace, Miami had an immediate impact on me and that is why now Little Havana has its own book. I grew up in places like West Virginia and Ohio, and now I live in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with my wife and two children. I’m lucky to be a full-time graphic artist for a living, but like all artists, I’m always looking for places and situations that spark my creative passions. And I’d never seen anything like Miami much less Little Havana.
From the moment I arrived that first time, I realized that I was changed forever --not just as an artist, but as a person. While it was just a short visit, I felt more inspired and more artistically charged when I was there than anywhere I have ever been. My second visit, I mostly stuck close to tourist areas, but even so, my rental car was broken into, while I was having dinner at Tobacco Road. Oddly, rather than scaring me away, that break-in made me bolder and more willing to see MORE of Miami than the touristy parts. After all, what else could happen? I found my way to Little Havana. I’ll be honest: I was nervous, despite reassurances from a childhood friend who has lived in South Florida for a longtime. So imagine my delight when I started exploring the neighborhood and found the warmest, most beautiful, delightful people in the world. My Spanish“skills” gave them plenty of laughs, I’m sure, but no one ever looked down on my clumsy attempts to communicate with them. In short order, I was taken behind the scenes and inside places that most tourists never get to see – and that’s their loss. I love all of Miami, but Little Havana stole my heart. It’s a special place,where the rhythms are different than on South Beach or downtown or the suburbs.
Over the next couple of years, I made several more trips back to Miami, and no matter where I planned to go, I spent all my time in Little Havana. I’ve spent days taking photographs, watching cigars being rolled, drinking mojitos and eating ropa vieja and maduros. Domino Park, the Tower Theater, Azucar, the Ball& Chain, Versailles, Jose Marti Park – these places I had never heard of have become part of my regular conversation.
I’m grateful to the many wonderful people I’ve met and gotten to know a bit through this project. Without their help, this couldn’t have happened. Zack Bush at the Ball and Chain, the Conde family, Corinna Moebius, Anneliese Morales, Christine Michaels and chef Michelle Bernstein. All of these people gave me access I didn’t expect and the gift of their time and advice. Those photographs, taken over hot days more humid than I thought possible, became this book. I hope a fraction of my passion for this special place comes through in the images and that you enjoy my views of Little Havana, La Pequena Habana. The book is available online at studioei8htzero.bigcartel.com. Beginning next week there will be copies available at the Havana Collection on Calle Ocho.