On Calle Ocho, Miami’s famed district running from 17th Ave. to 12th Ave, a majority of shops and stores are owned by Cubans whose businesses are thriving. One of the oldest fruit shops in Miami, Los Pinarenos Fruteria is quintessentially Calle Ocho. From the moment you walk in and grab a cup of guarapo, or sugarcane juice, it feels like you’ve been transported to the Cuban countryside. When the clock strikes 3:05 pm on Calle Ocho, it means coffee time. Representing Miami’s area code, 305, this is the time in the afternoon when residents visit their local ventanita, or walk-up window for their daily fix of Cuban espresso. As Marvin puts it, you’re officially a Miamian if you’re sipping on this strong stuff at this time of day.
Southwest 9th Street is home to The Bay of Pigs Museum, a memorial display and archived collection from the Cuban invasion that pays homage to the veterans that served in Brigade 2506. Take a walk through Domino Park, a gathering place for older Cubans who play dominoes, which they take very seriously. With all of this Cuban culture comes a lot of salsa and conga music, and just like you’d see in the films and magazines, it’s almost a guarantee to see someone playing music on the streets throughout Calle Ocho and a group of locals swaying to the music.
The Cuban-American culture that makes up Little Havana is utterly infectious. Having spent what little time we had with local friend and Miamian Marvin, we picked up some of our own Cuban quirks and possibly a bit of an accent too. Our cravings for the authentic fast food of Calle Ocho like Pan con Bistec will be shortly lived thanks to the fact that the Travelspective offices are in the Magic City.