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IFE-ILE Afro-Cuban Dance Festival

Cultural Miami

Miami is more than beaches and palm trees. Its neighborhoods pulse with diverse cultural traditions, kept alive not only through events and holidays but through the practice of everyday life. Here, many different ethnic -- Cuban, Haitian, Bahamian, African-American, South American, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Russian, etc. -- communities keep traditions alive.

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Miami Neighborhoods
Salsa/Timba/Latin Jazz Clubs
Miami Salsa/Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban Radio Stations
Other Arts/Culture Events During the Festival
Online Exhibits on Miami's Ethnic Communities

Culture is Alive in Miami Neighborhoods

Little Haiti
In this bustling, historic neighborhood, home to approximately 30,000 Haitian immigrants, visit a quincallerie (hardware store), buy gros savon (soap) and taste beurre chaud (bread) or any number of delicious tropical fruits. In markets and botanicas, find and learn about Vodou traditions. In many local shops you can find Haitian crafts and art, bursting with color, and hear traditional Compas and Racine music. Say "Sak Pase!" and you should find your visit to Little Haiti to be a complete pleasure.

Within the Little Haiti area is the Design District, spanning from NE Second Avenue on the east to North Miami Avenue on the west and then from NE 38th Street north to NE 42nd Street. It began as a trade center for the design trades, and is now an area with not only many design stores but art galleries and other arts-related businesses.

Little Havana
Although this neighborhood is now home to a growing number of immigrants from Nicaragua, Venezuela and other Latin American countries, it is still the home of many Cuban refugees. The main street, Calle Ocho, is known for its many art galleries, music venues and the famous Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park, where old Cuban men like to play dominos and tell stories. Taste strong and sweet Cuban coffee at El Esquisito or tropical juice (guava, guayaba, sugarcane, to name a few) at the fruteria on the corner of 13th Avenue. Eat a Cuban sandwich (or other delicious meals for less than $10), and at least one of the delicious, fancy Cuban pastries and desserts (pastelito de guayaba) offered by many cafes and restaurants in the area.

Have your own cigars hand- rolled in a cigar shop factory. Visit a botanica, where many Santeria and Spiritism items can be found, or buy a set of claves or a hard-to-find Latin jazz CD at the music store. At night, go see a performance at the restored Tower Theater or check out a performance at music venues like Hoy Como Ayer, which features everything from rumba fusion to Cuban salsa.

Nicknamed Little Dominican Republic, the community of Allapatah (the Seminole word for alligator) is also the home of many of Miami's Afro-Cubans as well as people from all parts of the world. In fact, it has been considered the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. Allapattah is filled with fresh juice bars, restaurants and cafes where you can listen to the popular Dominican music called Bachata. Buy fresh passion fruit and other tropical fruits in markets or eat delicious, authentic meals for a very cheap price.

This historic African American community has churches built as far back as 1896, when the City of Miami was incorporated. Its Lyric Theater, recently restored, was described in 1915 by The Miami Metropolis as, "Possibly the most beautiful and costly playhouse owned by colored people in all the southland." In the '60s, two interstate highways were built in the heart of the community, and in the '70s, much housing was demolished as part of "urban renewal," leading to displacement of many residents. Even more residents were displaced and housing/buildings lost during the '80s, when civil disturbances took place. Local community organizers and organizations are working to help lift local residents out of poverty.

Liberty City
In this historic African-American neighborhood, find Black-owned businesses selling items like Afrocentric books, colorful murals celebrating African-American heroes, and Liberty Square, the first public housing project in the State of Florida. Liberty City is also the home of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and a wall that once separated Black and White communities.

Salsa/Timba/Latin Jazz Clubs*

Hoy Como Ayer
2212 SW 8th St
Miami, FL 33135
Phone: 305-541-2631
Live bands Wednesday through Saturday.

Ball and Chain 1513 SW 8th St,
Miami, FL 33135

La Covacha
10730 N.W. 25th Street, Miami.
Phone: 305-594-3717
One of the most varied musical venues in Miami, where you can hear salsa, merengue, soca, songo, samba and even gaitas. Part is open air, under a thatched roof.

Rancho Gaspar
16480 NW 117th Avenue, Hialeah Gardens
Phone: 305-827-1659
For a venue very much like Cuba's La Tropical, check out this place, which features timba and reggaeton as well as salsa. Take Okeechobee west to the first street west of the Turnpike South (NW 117th Avenue). It is not marked! It doubles back east for about a block then turns north. Watch for the big sign on the fence that says "Rancho Gaspar". Keep going until you see the white wooden fence on the left-hand side. That is the parking area for Rancho Gaspar. Dress comfortably and prepare to get dirt between your toes if you wear sandals. Features good Cuban food. Live bands on Sundays (call) and DJ on Saturdays.

* Thanks to SalsaPower for the additional info/comments.

Miami Radio Stations

We highly recommend listening to the following radio station while you're in Miami:

  • WDNA 88.9 Serious Jazz (lots of Afro-Cuban jazz, bata/Orisha, fusion plus Brazilian, world, AfroBop, Charanga, salsa, etc. See schedule. Listen online now!

Other Arts/Culture Events

Miami New Times
Miami New Times features arts and events listings, an online calendar of events, and listings of music and club venues, too. Check out this site regularly to find out what's happening during your visit.

Historical Museum of Southern Florida
101 W. Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33130
(305) 375-1492

Exhibits of South Florida history, cultures and folklife ...

Online Exhibits on Miami's Ethnic Communities

Exploring the Culture of Little Havana

Cultural Groups Living in South Florida

Caribbean Percussion Traditions in Miami (features drums by IFE-ILE's Ezequiel Torres)

Miami Arts/Culture Resources

Historical Museum of South Florida

Florida Folklife