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Miami’s Little Havana turns into a Global Tourist Hot Spot

Miami’s Little Havana turns into a Global Tourist Hot Spot

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 30, 2017

On a recent Friday afternoon, German tourists Laura Neufert and Johannes Fuehner strolled through Miami's famed Southwest 8th Street, often referred to as 'Calle Ocho.' They stopped at Máximo Gomez Park, also known as Domino Park, to gaze at the older gentlemen playing. You could hear the click clack of the dominoes being spread around the table as the players focused intently on the game and planned their next move. 

"It's nice to see how people came from Cuba and brought their culture," said Fuehner. 

The young couple is staying in downtown Miami, but they read about the neighborhood called Little Havana in a tour guide and decided to check it out.

"I find it astonishing how people speak more Spanish than English here," Fuehner said, as a red double-decker bus stopped and unloaded a stream of tourists who dispersed between the park and other parts of the neighborhood. 

Little Havana, known to Miami residents as a working class, immigrant neighborhood, has been receiving a flood of tourists for over 5 years now.

They are attracted to the neighborhood because "travelers want local authentic organic experiences," according to Rolando Aedo, Vice President of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitor's Bureau. 

"Little Havana has become one of the most unique experiences from a tourism perspective that Miami has to offer," he said. 

When tourists began visiting the neighborhood years ago, tour buses would drop them off along Calle Ocho because they wanted to immerse themselves in the cultural experience. But there was no one to provide any guidance about the area and tourists would often resort to asking the businesses about the history. But that changed as demand grew and in 2015, the Little Havana Visitor Center was opened. Last year, an estimated 3 million tourists visited Little Havana, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

But when the area was founded in the early 20th century, it was starkly different from what it is today. Little Havana was once a deep south neighborhood, according to Paul George, Resident Historian at the HistoryMiami museum and an author of books, including one titled "Little Havana." 

When the area was developed in the early 1900s, it was comprised of two different neighborhoods known as Riverside and Shenandoah. By the twenties Riverside and Shenandoah began to see a Jewish influx, which kept growing throughout the 30s and 40s. 

But by the 1950s, the Jewish community began to move to newly established suburbs and Cubans fleeing the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship began to settle in. It was after the 1959 revolution in Cuba that the Cuban population in Miami exploded and they concentrated heavily in this area.

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