Gabriella Pena: Little Havana 2021

Student Bio

Photo taken by Lien Estevez/CC by 4.0

Gabriella Pena is a 19-year old entering her sophomore year at Florida International University, majoring in Marine Biology. She is not entirely sure what she wants to do after graduation, but what she is sure of is doing anything that involves travel.


Image taken from Google Maps

Little Havana is a busy town comprised of cafes, restaurants, shops, bars, clubs, parks, and more. Just off the corner of Miami International Airport, the town was originally a Jewish neighborhood in the 1930’s when the town was in its infancy, but came into its current image of “Cuban Central” in the 1960’s when Cubans immigrated to Miami.


the town was originally a Jewish neighborhood in the 1930’s when the town was in its infancy but came into its current image of “Cuban Central” in the 1960’s when Cubans immigrated to Miami. After the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959, a Cuban exodus began as the new government allied itself with the Soviet Union and began to introduce communism (“History Of The Cuban Revolution Marked By Tens Of Thousands Fleeing The Island For The U.S.”). Most visitors of the town at the time had hoped to wait it out until Fidel would be removed from office, but Little Havana fortunately became a permanent settlement for Cubans.


The median age of Little Havana residents is 40.9 years old (“Little Havana, Florida Population & Demographics”). 49.66% of Little Havana is female, whilst 50.34% of the Little Havana population is male. White collar workers make up the majority of residents at a whopping 70.15%, with the 29.85% being the lower income, blue collar working residents. Ethnicity-wise Hispanics make up 71.2% of Little Havana. 90.41% of residents are white, 4.43% black, 0.09% Asian, 0.34% Native American, and 1.6% mixed race. You can deduce from this breakdown that the majority of Little Havana residents are white Hispanics, and this is not only reflected in the town, but Miami as a whole.


Gabriella: Hey, Chris. Introduce yourself to those who may not know you.

Chris: Hi! So, my name is Christian Delgado, I am a business student at [the University of Pennsylvania] who resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was born in Little Havana, raised by Guatemalan parents. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in Little Havana, and though I don’t currently live there, my family still lives there.

Gabriella: How did you grow up in Little Havana?

Chris: I grew up right by the Marlins Stadium in a small apartment complex. My mom, big sister, my tío, my tía, and half-brother lived in that teeny tiny apartment.

Gabriella: What particular things do you remember from your childhood there?

Chris: We had a plastic-covered couch at one point that I hated to my core. It was so uncomfortable, but anything to avoid staining the fabric for my mom. Another thing that sticks out for me were the TV dinners packed in the freezer because a lot of members in my family didn’t know how to cook and were always busy with work. Viernes Culturales was a huge deal when I was young, going every time, dancing, singing, admiring all the costumed dancers.

Gabriella: Since you don’t live there but your family does, I would like to ask: has your family noticed any differences over the years after living in Little Havana for decades?

Chris: Oh my God, yes! They will never not complain to me about the rent going up every year. They have had to relocate within the neighborhood several times because of the crazy rates. You can see the gentrification creeping into the neighborhood little by little. Fancier pop-ups have replaced the closed-down ventanitas, boutique hotels raising prices of property nearby. For sure there has been a change.


Calle Ocho is the first historical landmark mentioned in this project. As mentioned before, Little Havana revolves around SW 8th Street (also known as Tamiami Trail) and has well known places within such as Maximo Gomez Domino Park and Calle Ocho Walk of Fame featuring Cuban and Cuban-American excellence. Calle Ocho definitely captures the energy of Little Havana.

The Bay of Pigs monument dedicates itself to Cuban exiles, freedom fighters, and those who fell during the Bay of Pigs invasion off the coast of Cuba. The boulevard has different monuments. Some include a bronze map of Cuba, a statue of Virgin Mary, a large Ceiba tree, and more.

Ball and Chain is a staple when it comes to Little Havana nightlife. Originally opened in 1935 back before Little Havana became Little Havana and was largely Jewish, Ball and Chain hosted regulars such as Billie Holiday, (according to rumors) Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong to name a few. Unfortunately, Ball and Chain closed in 1957 due to a lawsuit and stayed that way until 2014. The property was restored to its former glory and is now a must for anyone visiting Little Havana, especially for those who love dancing and drinking.


  1. “History Of The Cuban Revolution Marked By Tens Of Thousands Fleeing The Island For The U.S.”. Miami Herald, Accessed 13 Dec 2021.
  2. Vasilogambros, Matt. “Cuba, The Brand”. The Atlantic, 2021,
  3. “Little Havana”. Miami Herald, Accessed 13 Dec 2021.
  4. “Little Havana, Florida Population & Demographics”. Areavibes.Com,
  5. Munro, Lizzie. “Inside Miami’s Iconic Little Havana Bar, Ball & Chain”. Punchdrink.Com, 2017, Accessed 13 Dec 2021.

Author: Gabriella Pena

A marine biology student at FIU who has many interests, including Beyoncé, fashion, Formula One, video games, travel, world culture, languages, etc.

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