I parked the silver Toyota Camry in the first unoccupied spot on the street; parallel parked to be precise – something I had never done before. In Miami, you’re not taught or tested on parallel parking because you’re unlikely to need it. At least this was how things were when I got my license. The successful parking job raised my already high spirits, the sun was high in the sky + I could hear Latin music playing loudly on the street.
In Miami’s Little Havana [La Pequeña Habana] – a predominantly Cuban neighborhood, there’s one famous street; Southwest 8th Street, fondly called“Calle Ocho”. Pronounced [kaye – ocho]. On this afternoon, I decided to head down here with my boyfriend to check out what the street had to offer.
As we turned a corner, we were greeted by a medium-sized statue of a chicken whose breast read Calle Ocho. If you’ve been reading the blog, you’d know that I don’t care for any kind of bird, but since this one was inanimate, I got up close to take a photo.There are quite a few chicken statues in the area which got me wondering if chickens are significant to Cuban culture. Turns out the answer to that is yes; male chickens, roosters are part of Cuban folklore. Just like the rooster marks the entry to Calle Ocho, it also marks the entry into a small Cuban city called Moron. As legend has it, the rooster monument was placed as a reminder to people not to mistreat others thanks to a guy who called himself a rooster, mistreated people and wound up lynched by the same wronged people. Gruesome, but there’s more to the story which you can read here.
Behind the colorful rooster is the famous El Pub whose Cuban food I’m [incredibly] sad to say I wasn’t hungry enough to try. Instead, we made a beeline for an ice cream shop- Azucar.The weather was hot and the air heavy with moisture [as per normal] so I needed something to cool off with. The ice-cream was definitely cool, but that’s about all the pleasure I got from it which is sad because I read reviews that said it was excellent.
I thought that my shortcoming was ordering a guava-flavored one but it wasn’t so much the taste as it was the consistency. I like my ice-cream to be creamy and smooth and this was not that. However, since it cost almost $5 for a tiny cup, I begrudgingly finished it.
Post ice-cream-fail, we walked into the bar+club – Ball & Chain where a live band was playing their version of some of my favorite Latin hits. I hear this is the place to go out dancing on Calle Ocho and I don’t doubt it. At 4pm the music was good enough to make me want to pull out some salsa spins.
We sat in here for happy hour mojitos before making our way across the water to South Beach.
Unluckily we visited Calle Ocho on the wrong Friday and missed the monthly “Viernes culturales” or “cultural Fridays” which is a celebration of Cuban history, art, music, and food. Of course, there’s dancing. It’s held on the last Friday of every month.There isn’t a whole lot to do on Calle Ocho so I would recommend it as a brief stop -maybe 1-2hrs- on your itinerary. Besides food and drinks, there’s a domino park where locals play, a few art galleries, cigar shops, and of course the trusted gift shop for all your branded knick-knacks. If you’re not feeling up to exploring on your own, there are guided tours from LittleHavanaGuide.com.I like finding ways to enjoy and celebrate Latin culture and I see myself coming back here to indulge in Cuban food, dance and learn to roll a cigar or two. It’s as close as I’m getting to Cuba thanks to a certain president, and I’ll take it!Have any of you visited Little Havana, what did you think? If you haven’t would you want to? + What aspects of Cuban culture have you encountered?
Thanks for reading!
All photos shot by Obie & Myself on iPhone 6S+
Same footprints, Different Sands