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In this 1st edition of 2019 we at Calle Ocho News have chosen to begin a series of articles called the The women and men of Little Havana. The people we will be highlighting in our publication have a great deal to do with making Little Havana what it is today. Some people think that it is just about the coffee, food and cigars shops you find there but that could not be further from the truth.
The truth is that Little Havana would not be what it is today without the people that make the famous coffee, the rollers of the aromatic cigars and lastly the cooks of the amazing food that make it what it is. We want to dedicate the first edition of 2019 to the 1st woman of Little Havana Guillermina Hernandez.
Message to Guillermina
Guillermina we want to thank you so much for being the neighborhood grandmother. Thank you for being you. Your spirit is what this neighborhood is all about, so we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the LOVE you show each one of us every day. You are a beautiful person inside and out. Your tenacity and consistency are beyond admirable.
We love you…
Guillermina Hernandez is the matriarch of Los Pinareños, the only open-air fruit market on Southwest 8th Street. She moved to Miami from the countryside of Cuba in the 1960s, along with thousands of other unaccompanied minors under Operation Pedro Pan. Unlike many of those children, Guillermina was eventually reunited with her parents, a family of farmers.
Today, the smell of pineapples, mangoes, and bananas fill the air of Guillermina’s fruit and flower stand as she begins to recount its story. It once belonged to a Jamaican family, then a Jewish family her father rented from, until he finally purchased it in 1967. She brings out an old framed portrait of her mother-in-law standing in front of Los Pinareños Fruteria before the market burned down in 1995. She explains how the building lost its original awnings in the travesty, and how it was eventually rebuilt.
Every corner you turn inside the market is like turning a corner into the past. A vintage typewriter sits next to an antique sewing machine, and an old rotary dial phone is positioned between two crucifixes. Every now and then, Guillermina’s eyes shift as if she is looking for someone—for years, she ran the business with her late husband, Angel Hernandez. But she still makes her award-winning Cafecito, which she calls a sign of friendship, and explains that Little Havana has proven that immigrants can prosper from nothing.
She hopes that doesn’t change. “To change Little Havana is to displace an entire tradition.”
By: Lia Seirotti
This piece was originally written as part of the project: Little Havana Me Importa: The Places and Faces That Define a Neighborhood for The National Trust for Historic Preservation; https://savingplaces.org/places/little-havana