Every last Friday of the month (for as long as I can remember) Little Havana has been hosting Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays for you gringos). I remember going with my parents and taking it all in. Even though I was first dragged there and had no choice, I later came to appreciate it as it drew me closer to my Cuban roots and introduced me to Latin Art and culture.
Fast forward, and now as a mother I too drag my poor kids there every last Friday of the month. This past Friday was no different. I took my eldest daughter to experience all the art since she is a gifted artist (thanks to daddy). And I was so happy to see she really enjoyed it and was even gifted a beautiful Virgen Cubanita print by Ninoska Perez Castellon.
Why am I telling you all this? Well because Viernes Culturales is about to celebrate 20 years and I couldn’t be more proud of the organization’s work. They have not only spent 20 plus years putting this event together, but they have done so for the sole purpose of preserving the culture and history of the area. Thanks to them the area is bustling with tourism. 11 big buses stop there daily, and it is quite a sight to see. They come from all over the world. There is a Latin explosion happening daily in Little Havana thanks to the music at Ball & Chain and Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina. Not to mention the great food (my kids are totally hooked on Cafe con Leche ice-cream from Azucar Ice Cream Company and the dark chocolate from Guayaba y Chocolate) and now I’ve been grabbing coffee daily at the newly reopened Velvet Creme Doughnuts & Coffee.
What has happened in this area is a true testament to the fortitude and resilience of the early pioneers of the area. I had a chance to meet them all last month at their monthly VC board meeting. They are historians of the sort who told me all about the early days of the Latin Quarter when it was consumed by crime and poverty. They mentioned commissioner @JoeSanchez who really championed their cause at the City.
Today over 40 years later it is a vibrant entertainment district thanks to their hard work and newcomers like Bill Fuller who were visionaries and saw the potential and invested in the area. I was so happy to see our new Mayor Francis Suarez also recognize their work last Friday.
I encourage all of you to “like” the Viernes FB page and consider joining us every last Friday of the month to take it all in. Start your night at Futurama 1637 Galleries and take in the local art co-op space, while sampling Concrete Beach Brewery #HavanaLager (surprisingly refreshing and delicious). Then head over to Domino Park for some Latin music and more local artisans. You can also join PaulS.George and many other #LittleHavanaWalkingTours (my favorite guide is Annelise can’t miss her with her bright-colored guayaberas) at Tower Theatre. And you can’t beat Miami Culinary Tours best meet-up spot (Taberna del Pintor Agustin Gainza). All are quite the experience and listed along the top tours in the world (No joke check Trip Advisor).
There is so much to see and trust me you can’t see it all in one visit. But don’t take my word for it. Plan a day or jump on a Free Trolley from anywhere in the City of Miami or even Coral Gables.
I guess this is the time where I should thank my Mom Maria Goicoechea Galvez and Dad for dragging me to Viernes all those years ago. I know you are proud that the tradition now continues with your grandchildren, and hopefully with the help of other Hispanics and prominent businesses like #Bacardi #CawyBottling #TheMarlins, #LeonMedical #EstrellaInsurance #Goya #CafePilon (that I am reaching out to personally), it will continue for many generations to come.
Information provided by Denise Galvez Turros