Energy emanates through the streets of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. From the brightly painted murals that adorn almost every building to the big smiles you’ll get from passersby on the street, life is good within this 40-block radius. Little Haiti is home to almost 30,000 Haitian-Americans. The area became a haven for Haitians seeking asylum in the 1980s after François “Papa Doc” Duvalier imprisoned or exiled Haitians who opposed him. He governed the country with repressive and torturous tactics and left many Haitians no choice but to flee.
Today, Little Haiti is vibrant and full of life. On weekends, Haitian and Caribbean music fill the streets while local artists and eateries line the outdoor market. You’d never guess you were in Miami by the looks of this quaint neighborhood, but that’s what makes it such a refreshing escape.
Visit Libreri Mapou Bookstore
Just around the corner from The Little Haiti Cultural Complex is the Libreri Mapou bookstore. It is the largest collection of French and Creole literature, housing over 3,000 hard to find works. Owned by Jan Mapou, a Haitian immigrant himself, the bookstore has been a neighborhood staple since 1986. Today, the store has become more than just a place to buy a book, but rather a place to entrench yourself in Haitian ethos. Libreri Mapou hosts a wide range of events, from panel discussions to poetry readings, even small concerts from time to time. It is definitely a place you’ll want to visit when in the area.
Learn About Haitian Culture
The Little Haiti Cultural Complex is located right in the center of the neighborhood. It is used as a community center and informational hub for visitors. If you want to know what’s happening in and around the neighborhood, head over there. The cultural complex offers Haitian dance classes, art classes, and is home to a gallery housing works from local and international artists. The cultural complex also runs events throughout the month, like the free outdoor concert, Sounds of Little Haiti, which takes place every third Friday night.
Find the General Toussaint L’Ouverture Statue
The story of Haitian culture wouldn’t be complete without General Toussaint L’Ouverture. As the leader of the Haitian Revolution, L’Ouverture, helped overthrow the French and free Haiti from slavery. The Haitian Revolution is considered the be the most successful slave revolution of all time, as it led to the elimination of slavery and the establishment of a free state. In 2005, the city of Miami commissioned a statue of General L’Ouverture to be a symbol of strength and activism for the city. It is located on N. Miami Ave. right down the block from the 62nd St. Marketplace.
Eat Around the Neighborhood
The best way to immerse yourself in any culture is by eating their food, and Little Haiti has plenty of food to offer. For some classic Haitian seafood, head to Chef Creole, which serves up spicy seafood platters with everything from shrimp to fried conch. And don’t leave without a bottle of Chef Creole’s special sauces—they’re sold at the restaurant. Ironically, though, not all the best eateries in Little Haiti are Haitian. For breakfast or brunch, Buena Vista Deli is a French café like no other. Their fresh croissants are too good to pass up.
Explore the Independent Music Scene
Aside from catching a concert at Churchill’s, Little Haiti is known for its vibrant independent music scene. Eclectic artists of all types are drawn to this area creating a fusion of sounds from jazz to rap to Afro-Cuban hip hop. To get a taste of Little Haiti’s thriving music scene head to Sweat Records, right down the street from Churchill’s. You’ll find a huge collection of original vinyls, indie music, and merchandise. The store doubles as a coffee shop, so you can sip a latte while searching the stacks. Sweat also hosts a whole range of monthly events from concerts to summer block parties, so check their site to see what they have in store.
Take in the Street Art
Walk along 54th towards 62nd Street and you’ll be mesmerized by the colorful street art and murals that adorn the walls. Haitian artist Serge Toussaint is responsible for most of them—he’s been painting ads, murals, and street signs throughout the neighborhood since he moved there almost two decades ago. Today, Toussaint uses his street art to make a statement about Haitian culture and stake Little Haiti’s claim. As the neighborhood gets more popular, many residents fear gentrification and a loss of culture, but his artwork is slowly becoming part of Miami’s culture. It’s become a Miami Art Week destination during the Art Beat Miami festival.
Visit Earth ‘N Us Farm
Right in the heart of Little Haiti is a surprisingly refreshing escape from the hustle and bustle of Miami—a farm. Earth ‘N Us Farm is a self-proclaimed urban ecovillage. Visitors of the farm are welcome to pet and feed the animals, volunteer in the garden, learn about sustainable living, and help mentor neighborhood kids. The farm also hosts a whole slew of weekly events such as a vegetarian potluck, bike cooperative, drum circles, and volleyballs games. The farm also has a pop-up vegan restaurant on premise and serves up fresh farm-to-table food.
Enjoy an Outdoor Event
One thing that makes this neighborhood so fun and lively is that residents are proud of their culture and love to share that pride. The weekly Caribbean Marketplace, meant to replicate Haiti’s Iron Market, is a great example of this. Fresh Afro-Caribbean cuisine, entertainment, and fashion are all on display for visitors to immerse themselves in. Look for Bernadette’s Fruit Stand while there. She’s got some of the freshest mangos around and sells dynamite sugar cane juice. The bi-monthly Black Roots Marketplace aims to support locally owned African-American businesses and help promote and grow their brands.
Grab a Cold Beer at Churchill’s
Although it’s become a staple of Little Haiti, Churchill’s is anything but Haitian. Opened in 1979, Churchill’s has become something of an off-beat concert venue and a neighborhood staple. Marylin Manson, Agent Orange, and Iggy Pop have all performed there. On any given night, you’ll hear a wide range of music from jazz to alt-rock. This is a great place to hang out with friends, enjoy a cheap beer, and play some pool.