There are tourists who like to vacation for a taste of the high-life, and some who like to unwind from the everyday stresses and live in leisure. Then there are those who prefer to explore a new place, a new culture and see all new things that they just can’t see anywhere else. The adventurous tourist should plan a trip to Little Haiti, a culturally immersive neighborhood brimming with the energy of Haitians in Miami and the colorful arts and culture they’ve brought over.
This region is “ripe for exploration” as one local activist in the area put it. Neighboring Wynwood and Design District have quickly become popular arts and culture havens with streets lined with galleries and commercial art storefronts. The whole area, in just a handful of years, has been overtaken by an artistic energy and an appreciation for high-design and street-art. It’s only natural that Little Haiti, nestled right between these two increasingly popular neighborhoods, deserves some attention of it’s own.
Wynwood and the Design District are centered around art and design; in Little Haiti it’s about a blend of independent stores, art collectives and authentic Haitian culture. A new initiative was recently launched to make it easy for locals and visitors to get a taste of how truly unique the Little Haiti Area is. Every other month there’s Little Haiti Sunday Stroll, a daytime family-friendly event that’s aimed at showing off just how special this area is.
New bike lanes make it easy to explore this recently gentrified neighborhood. One sight to look out for is the Caribbean Marketplace painted in bright pastel colors as a tribute to the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince.
Authentic Haitian Culture
Political, socio-economic reasons and natural disasters have driven Haitians away from their homeland to nearby Miami for years. With them has come a strong sense of traditional and authentic Haitian lifestyle markets along the street, which sell sugar cane and mangos. You will see signs and billboards for local radio stations written in Creole. Little Haiti was called a “cultural oasis” in the New York Times in 1999 and the same rings true today. The neighborhood has become safer as the years have passed, and today, is just as authentic, but more open to cultural tourism than it had been in years past.
The Caribbean Marketplace was designed by Charles Harrison Pawley in the style of the typical Haitian gingerbread architecture. The colorful pastel buildings with funky cutout shapes are a great place to stop and peruse local Haitian goods. For a real glimpse at the movers and shakers on the Little Haiti scene, stop by Libreri Mapou, a Creole and French bookstore where much of the deals and doings of the local scene take place. Owner Jan Mapou is a pillar of the community and the store hosts Creole classes, dances, music and theater.
Music and Art Spaces
With the development of Wynwood and the Design District and the increasing prices for space in those areas, Little Haiti has emerged as an indie arts haven. Yo Space is a communal arts space where artists of different mediums can exhibit, work and collaborate all under one roof. Yo Miami, their umbrella organization, runs a blog and is the community force behind the Sunday Stroll initiative.
In another corner of Little Haiti’s side streets is the Moksha Family Artist Collective, a mixed use space bringing together musicians, artists, technicians, visionaries and creative individuals of all kinds, on the “quest for universal oneness.” This psychedelic space holds a variety of events, including live painting, video art, tribal music and electronic music. Expect to meet some unique characters, experience art that’s pretty different than the traditional spaces in the Design District and the street art phenomenon of Wynwood.
Community Initiatives and Not For Profits
The Little Haiti Community Garden and the eventful programming at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, including Big Night in Little Haiti, are just some of the local community initiatives that visitors are welcome to enjoy.
The Little Haiti Community Garden is a not for profit organization “dedicated to using traditional farming techniques.” The small space was once an empty and rundown urban lot. Today, the fresh produce that is grown there gives kids and local residents a reason to connect with the earth and provide the community with a gift. The fruits of their labor are for sale at the garden and at the Upper Eastside Farmers Market, a year-round market just a few blocks away.
Little Haiti Cultural Center hosts Big Night in Little Haiti, held on the third Friday of every month, where music and arts of all kind are on display for families, locals and visitors.
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