Once known as Lemon City, Little Haiti transformed over the past three decades to be the cultural hub for all things Haitian and has since also become a destination for more than just the Haitian diaspora. Whether it’s for the diversity of events that take place in the neighborhood or for the food, Little Haiti is welcoming to all cultures but remains true and authentic to the people and Haitian culture that have made it home over the past few decades.
In honor of Haitian Heritage Month and the people who have kept the spirit of Little Haiti alive over the past few decades, here are Miami Soul’s top five things we love about Little Haiti and hope never changes even as Miami becomes this emerging global city. Because home is where the heart is!
1. Tastes of Little Haiti
No big chains here. All mom and pop restaurants serving authentic Haitian food where you can eat to your heart’s content. Just as you start to enter the boundaries of Little Haiti, the smell of pikliz (spicy cole slaw mix), diri avec djon djon (mushroom rice), griot (fried pork), and soup joumou (pumpkin soup) arouses all of your senses. And you can’t forget the kremas (Haitian eggnog). No Haitian party is complete without kermas. From the king of Haitian seafood Chef Creole (200 NW 54th St), Chez Le Bebe (114 NE 54th St), Leela’s Restaurant (5650 NE 2nd Ave) which has been in the neighborhood for more than 30 years, and New Piman Bouk Haitian Restaurant (5932 NE 2nd Ave), which is owned by a popular local Haitian radio personality, Little Haiti has authentic Haitian food to feed your soul. And when you’re craving fresh hot Haitian patties, New Florida Bakery (46 NE 62nd St) has it on lock!
2. Little Haiti Cultural Complex & the Caribbean Marketplace
If it’s an event involving culture, music, and community, then chances are that it’s being held at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex, which has become the mecca for community events in Miami since its opening in 2009. LHCC is an event space, theater, art gallery and community hub. On any given day you can find kids participating in a number of after school arts program, art shows, and even performing arts groups like the Delou African Dance Ensemble, Tradisyon Lakou Lakay, Peter London Global Dance Company, Dance NOW, and other resident dance companies. Known for being home to major events like Big Night in Little Haiti and ZakaFest and hosting major Haitian bands, what we love most about LHCC is that it was created for the people and has remained true to its core mission.
Around the corner is the Caribbean Marketplace which channels the flair and design of the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince. The Marketplace has been around for years and has since been redeveloped to host vendors and artisans selling handicrafts, jewelry, and art, and as a venue for community events. The LHCC is located at 212 NE 59th Terr.
3. The Art
Art has always had a place in Little Haiti. Just stroll along 54th to 62nd Streets for lively street art and murals on the walls of shops and restaurants (like Piman Bouk’s restaurant) of which many are painted by Haitian artist Serge Toussaint. With the explosive growth of Art Basel, Little Haiti has also now become a Miami Art Week destination with the newly created Art Beat Miami, which is an art, food and music festival celebrating the pulse and flavor of Haitian and Caribbean art. Other Haitian artists like Edouard Duval-Carrié often exhibit work at the art gallery at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. As Miami becomes more and more of an art hub, you’ll also notice more art galleries calling Little Haiti home.
4. Libreri Mapou Bookstore
A community staple since the 1986, Libreri Mapou has been that go-to spot for hard to find Creole and French literature. Owned by Jan Mapou, the bookstore was created as a community hub and cultural space for the growing Haitian community. Today, this gem houses more than 3,000 literary works, and at any given time you’ll find thought provoking political discourse, readings and panel discussions, drumming and performances by Haitian dance company Sosyete Koukouy (Society of Fireflies), and a gathering of Haitian intellectuals. And if you want to learn how to say more than just ‘sak pase, nap boule,’ Libreri Mapou can hook you up with some helpful Creole and French language books. Libreri Mapou is located at 5921 NE 2nd Ave.
5. General Toussaint L’Ouverture Statue
You can’t celebrate Haitian culture without paying homage to the fearless Haitian leader who defended Haitian liberty, overthrew the French colonists, and led the Haitian Revolution to become the first free Black nation. The seven-foot-tall bronze statue commissioned by the City of Miami stands at a corner lot park at NE Second Avenue and 62nd Street. The statue has now also become the site of the annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the hundreds of thousands of lives lost during the devastating Haiti earthquake on January 12, 2010.
L’union Fait la Force!