The Miami-Havana Connection
Glamorous and vibrant, Miami has been America’s most international city since the mid-20th century. While residents of New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco may scoff at this, none of those cities shares so much culture and vibe as Miami does with Cuba. Associations between Miami and Cuba as well as Cuban culture go way back. As diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba are renewed and travel restrictions between the two countries relaxed, experiencing the best of Havana in Miami has never been easier.
Miami’s nightlife has always been among the best in the world, but it’s about to get even hotter. While many Americans have heard of Cuban-American performers such as Desi Arnaz, Celia Cruz, and Gloria Estefan through the years, performers who live in Cuba – and are therefore restricted from breaking into the U.S. market – have had to expand their reach via Europe instead. Hopes are high, however, that this will soon change and Miami will become the place where rising Cuban-American performers make their U.S. debuts. Miami clubs, of course, have always had a strong Latin flavor, and this trend only promises to grow as the hottest artists in the music industry gear up for an explosion of Latin releases, performances, and star power in the U.S.
For an authentic Cuban cultural experience, head to Little Havana. Within this neighborhood, Calle Ocho (8th Street) evokes old Havana in many, many ways, including in its traditional architecture. While more contemporary Cuban-inspired architecture is on display in the Bacardi buildings downtown, echoes of Cuban colonial heritage can be found in the Spanish/Moorish elements of Freedom Tower. More broadly, the Cuban emphasis on outdoor living and the tropical, airy feel of Havana can be found in many of the new condos in Miami– think of the smooth, sinuous, Brickell condos with their wraparound balconies – that evoke a Caribbean and tropical yet eminently modern feel.
Dining in Miami also affords foodies the opportunity to sample Cuba’s legendary culinary contributions, where cafecitos are as popular as Starbucks (and have been around much longer). While an American version of the Cuban frita sandwich has started showing up on brewpub menus across the nation, and tropical/Latin flavors that are staples in Miami are becoming more mainstream, Cuban pastelitos and ice cream are still local to Miami. Cuban sandwich shops are ubiquitous around town, and popular Cuban restaurants such as Versailles are always packed. With so much renewed interest in Cuba, look for Cuban dining to re-emerge at many high-end restaurants; the Havana Nights Wednesdays at the Regent Cocktail Club in South Beach, for example, is a new must-do for the cocktail crowd.
With improved U.S.-Cuban relations primed to add even more excitement to the Magic City’s booming arts, business, and tourism industries, it doesn’t look as if the current boom in Brickell for new luxury condominium development will be slowing down anytime soon. As Cuba becomes poised to take off, it’s a very good time to have, or establish, a foothold in Miami.
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