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Postcard from Miami: Discovering Little Havana

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My eyes are half shut as I sit down to write the latest wanderings of The Press Democrat’s “Postcard from Miami” series while Phil Barber, Grant Cohn and I continue to report on Super Bowl week here in the land of oranges.

My goal today was to cruise Little Havana, considered to be a little more than a stone’s throw from Miami’s whopping downtown skyline. I cruised down the main street, Calle Ocho, and spotted vibrant storefronts, numerous cigar shops and murals on nearly every building in the area. I was in search of community vibrancy; well, as much as I could find in half a morning, so I drove the back streets of the community, off the beaten path.

There I encountered 95-year-old Raul Fonseca, who left Cuba in 1945 and immigrated to Miami.

He’s sold produce most of his life and still works his truck, selling fresh fruits and vegetables to a legion of Little Havana’s residents.

Little Havana, or “La Pequeña Habana,” was settled gradually, in what was then the Jewish community of Miami.

During the strife and political upheaval of the 1950s and ’60s in Cuba, thousands of Cubans immigrated to Miami, thanks in part to the U.S. passing the 1962 Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. As more Cubans moved in to the downtown area of Miami, some of the refugees located to the periphery of the sprawling city. Over decades, Little Havana has imprinted on Dade County in the arts, food and tourism. There does seem to be some commercial and residential gentrification taking place as land has become even more scarce in Miami.

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