Little Havana: Immigration and Poverty
Last weekend I was in Miami, FL for a conference. I managed to find time to escape Miami’s touristic nature and visit Little Havana or home of the many Cubans who escaped the Castro regime. The neighborhood tells a lot about its nature as you enter the 8th SW Street. First, there is only one main street in which all businesses are located and people are much warmer and poor than an ordinary people living in Miami. Apartments are relatively old, modest and simple. Don’t be surprised if you see the manifestations of poverty in this neighborhood because the system is designed to leave them out of the ladder. The streets are almost empty not because there are not many living in the area but because many are working. Cubans usually work either as taxi drivers or as waiters/waitresses in the black market. From my observation, it seems not many have managed to rise to important positions because of the restrictive immigration laws in the U.S. Further, I realized that none of the major communication carriers were present in Little Havana and one could only see a CVS and Walgreens. I really wonder why big US companies are not there.
Second, Little Havana, it seems, a touristic subject that has been visited while passing primarily for its cigars but not culture or people. While wandering around, many tourist buses came and went leaving tourists to shop handmade cigars. The Cuban memorial and the Bust of Jose Marti receive no attention particularly because they are not around cigar shops and Cubans protest around these two monuments. Why to bother and understand why Cubans are protesting or demanding rights? At a very basic level, the relationship is simple: the tourists are interested in cigars while Cubans are interested in money. I haven’t seen any other interaction between foreigners and local Cubans except this. Yet, Cubans are talkative and welcoming if you care enough to talk to them. They also like to spend their time in coffee houses playing cards. Both women and men can be part of a play card group.
Third, Cuban food is amazing and cheap if you want to try. I tried the Cuban Steak sandwich which was delicious. Basically it is made of steak, garlic, rolls and white bread. Then there is pilaf of the Cubans (mixed with beans) that is very similar to bulgur pilaf. This meal is served as a side to the main dish and comes along with three kinds of small sides: pickles, onions and salsa.