Sultry Miami… at the crossing between American, Hispanic and Caribbean culture, it’s a city full of rhythm and colours. At first glance, it looks like any other metropolis. But my impression while driving downtown was that it looked new and quite sleek too with that elevated train driving around the skyscraper.
My trip to Miami being very short, I concentrated it in 2 areas: Little Havana and Miami Beach.
First stop: the famous Southwest 8th Street, or Calle Ochos as it is called. Calle Ochos is Little Havana’s main street. Since the Revolution, more than 300,000 Cubans have emigrated in the Miami area and now, they are a cultural, economical and political force to be reckoned with. In fact, the Cuban lobby has a big weight in the balance of US policy towards Cuba. And at the local level, the mayor, Manuel Diaz, is from Cubam origins.
Once in Calle Ochos, you almost feel like you’ve been transported to the island. Salsa and rumba can be heard from store, little coffee places are everywhere. Take a seat in one of them and soak in the atmosphere.
Walk around, you’ll come around grocery stores, colourful restaurants…
If you carry on walking west on Calle Ochos, you will discover little parks and one of them is the famous Maximo Gomez Park, aka Domino Park. It is a meeting point and a club for retirees. The park is at a street corner and has a roof (to shelter from the sun and tropical thunderstorms). A huge fresco representing the New World' Heads of State when they met in 1996 is the main feature of the Park. Of course, one person is missing from the mural... Fidel Castro.
Here, elderly gentlemen in Panama hats come to relax and play dominos, checkers, chess, cards... under the keen eyes of younger ones. Talking with one of the players, I discovered that it is really a club and only seniors can use the park's facilities, which consist of a little building where the games are stocked.
When you get at the crossroad of Calle Ochos and 13th avenue, also called "Memorial Boulevard", take a stroll and watch the monuments... some are religious (a statue of the Virgin Mary), some are political (a monument to the disastrous "Bay of Pigs"). All are celebrating Cuba.