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Explore the roots of Miami with Dr. Paul George's history tours
We would like to call your attention to one of the most important tour guides Little Havana has to offer. Dr. Paul George's history tours have been around for several decades dating back to the 1970’s, a time when he was still a student at FSU. In the summers of that era, he wandered north to Washington, D. C., where he ran an educational program on Capitol Hill.
He provided informal tours of the area, focusing on the Congressional history for the precocious students he oversaw. This began his career as a tour guide. After completing graduate school at FSU, he found himself teaching urban history at a college within the colorful confines of Atlanta, which was a social “laboratory” for the study of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. He brought the class to these quarters to examine their history, architecture, demographics, etc.
Returning to Miami in the 1980s, he found himself teaching Florida and Miami history at the University of Miami. Again, it seemed that a tour component was a logical part of such courses. Here, then, was the beginning of his tours of the Miami area, an endeavor made possible by the knowledge acquired through the completion of a Ph.D. dissertation focused on the history of criminal justice in the community in its first generation. The first was a tour of downtown Miami beginning in the historic north bank of the stream. The downtown tour remains his favorite since that quarter contains more history, architecture, and archaeology than any other part of South Florida.
After opening the downtown tour to the public and experiencing some success with the response to them, he turned, in April 1988, to the Historical Association of Southern Florida, today’s History Miami Museum, proposing that he conduct history tours under their banner while that institution marketed these excursions. This marriage was an instant success! Soon he was conducting tours of the Miami City Cemetery, Coconut Grove, the Art Deco District, and Little Havana. Since then, he has conducted more than 60 different tours of neighborhoods, as well as waterways, cemeteries, parks, etc. He employed feet, bicycles, trains, boats and buses for these excursions. They stretched from Key West to Fort Lauderdale. As Resident Historian to HistoryMiami, he conducts about 125 tours annually.
And then there are his tours for Viernes Culturales. His first Little Havana tour took place on a sultry Friday evening in April 1988 as part of Dade Heritage Days, a long-ago celebration of the county’s rich history. As a large crowd ambled through the streets of Little Havana, bewildered denizens came to their porches, and even the street, to observe this strange procession.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2002 when Jose Casanova and Pablo Canton, two of the founders of Viernes Culturales, asked him to conduct tours, as part of that fledgling monthly celebration of Little Havana’ s unique culture. His first and second tours were similar, but when it became apparent that the growing legion of tourgoers included many who were becoming “regulars,” he decided to create new Tours of Little Havana. Today, he offers twelve different tours of the quarter for Viernes Culturales. Some tours have drawn close to 100 persons. Few draws less than forty. These tours are especially satisfying to him because they allow him to showcase slices of a neighborhood that have been his home for much of his life.
“History in its many manifestations has been good to me. I’m a lucky guy!”
For information on Dr. George’s history tours with HistoryMiami Museum, please call 305-375-1621, or go online at [email protected].
For his Viernes Culturales/Little Havana tours, visit [email protected]
Rosi R. Rodriguez
Editor in Chief