After a trip to Sweat Records, you might want to pay tribute to Toussaint L’Ouverture. Or, at least, his likeness, which is cast in bronze. The father of Haitian independence, General L’Ouverture marks the intersection of NE 2ndAvenue and 62nd Street, right in the heart of Little Haiti. Another spot dear to the hearts of the locals, the Cathedral of Saint Mary is a historic Catholic congregation, formed in 1929. The church itself was built and moved several times in the area; this particular stucco incarnation dates back to 1957 and features elements such as terrazzo floors, a glazed tile dome, and brass plates and hinges patterning the doors.
During the daytime, you can also view the pastel facades of the shopping plazas and the wall art and murals that exist nearly everywhere. These mostly depict daily Haitian life – and indeed, decorate everything from cell phone stores to barber shops and salons – but also include a black-and-white mural tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., called “Prince of Peace,” by the late artist Oscar Thomas, located on 62nd Street as it heads west towards Liberty City. You’ll see carts filled with tropical fruits in season (anything from mangoes and papayas to coconuts and starfruit) for sale, and have the option of stopping into many bakeries, such as Piman Bouk’s New Florida Bakery, for puff pastry pates (pah-tays) filled with beef, chicken or codfish; dense Haitian bread; sweet coconut cakes; and candies like tablet de pistash (nut brittle).
For a full meal, try Piman Bouk Restaurant, but keep in mind that like Cuban fare, Haitians always enjoy beans served over white rice (usually a red kidney or black bean puree poured over rice, called sos pwa for short). However, unlike Cubans, Haitians adore spice. A condiment called pikliz is made from vegetables, mostly cabbage and carrots, cured with vinegar and chili peppers. It’s delicious, but from the right kitchen it could also steal your breath for a second.
Little Haiti, while not particularly touristy, is authentic. It’s also a neighbourhood in transition – which means that by 2020, touristy is exactly what it could be. As land in Wynwood and the Design District is gobbled up by luxe corporations installing high-end art and architecture, the smaller gallery and boutique owners are eyeing the real estate just to the north. Many have already rented properties, and the prediction is that the hipster art scene will blend in with Haitian culture to turn this area into one of the more intriguing mixtures in the city. In our opinion, it’s already pretty interesting, all on its own.
Written by Jen Karetnick
Little Haiti Shopping Center - courtesy of the GMCVB Miami and Beaches.com
Little Haiti St Marys Cathedral 1 - courtesy of the GMCVB Miami and Beaches.com