Natalia Sanchez: West Flagler 2021

Student Bio

Photo taken by Michael Maulini/CC by 4.0

Natalia Sanchez is a senior pursuing her B.S. in criminal justice and a certificate in geographical information systems at Florida International University (FIU). She hopes to become a crime scene investigator with the Miami Dade police department. Natalia is passionate about helping others, therefore she is a volunteer for the bubble city community project and student support services. During her free time, she participates with the FIU Winterguard, goes on runs, hangs out with friends, and goes to local concerts.

Geography

Image taken from Google Maps

West Flagler is a prominent neighborhood known for being the hub of many important sites to the immigrant culture of Miami. The neighborhood mostly consists of all of the houses and apartments it has. It is surrounded by NW 7th st, SW 42nd Ave, SW 8th ST and SW 27th ST. It has an area of 4.414 square miles. next to Little Havana and Coral Gables. It also has famous restaurants and booming businesses.

History

When researching the history of West Flagler, I was met with my first roadblock. I could not find any reliable websites that contained the history of this neighborhood. The websites that I did find tackled the demographics and geography of this neighborhood but not the history. My first criticism is that Miami Dade county needs to make websites for their neighborhoods in order for their citizens to be aware of where they live.

Demographics

West Flagler has a population of 60,224 with a population density of 13,644 people per square mile. When it comes to race, 90% are hispanic, 4.6% are white, 1.9% asian and 0.8% are black.

Photograph taken by Nikalus Children’s Hospital Staff/CC 4.0

The person I chose to interview is my friend Thomas Holloway. He is a Salvadoran-American student majoring in Nursing at Florida International University. He has been living in West Flagler for the last 10 years of his life. This is how our interview went.

NS: Hey Tommy, thanks for joining me.

TH: Thanks for interviewing me!

NS: How long have you been living here?

TH: I moved to the area when I was 11. I enjoy living here. It is a very peaceful neighborhood.

NS: What is your favorite place in West Flagler and why?

TH: I enjoy going to a restaurant nearby my house called Don Camaron with my family. We all love to eat seafood so we go there frequently

NS: Any places you recommend to our readers?

TH: I am a big fan of restaurants. Since I am from El Salvador, I would recommend the readers to check out El Ataklat. It is a great opportunity to try new food and definitely get the pupusas.

Landmarks

West Flagler has many great landmarks that highlight the cultural, artistic, and religious aspects of this neighborhood.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The first landmark is the Miami Dade County Auditorium. Located at 2901 W Flagler St, the A resplendent Miami-Dade County Auditorium serves as one of South Florida’s most respected performing arts centers. It is known to be the hub of diversity, culture, and celebration of the arts in Miami. Miami-Dade County Auditorium has served as one of the oldest and most important performing arts centers in the South Florida region for about 70 years. Throughout these 70 years, it has welcomed numerous operas, symphonies, theatre presentations, ballets, concerts, and community programs.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The next landmark is the Teatro Trail also known as Trail Theatre in English. Located at 3715 SW 8th St, it has been another hub for local Hispanic actors and entertainers, passionate about theater and the arts. It was established in 1930 by Cuban Exiles and since then has opened its doors to many plays and other events.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The last landmark is St. Michael The Archangel Catholic Church and school. Located at 2987 West Flagler Street, this church provides the South Florida catholic community a place to exercise their beliefs. The church also has a school that teaches kids from the grade levels of pre-kinder to 8th. It also has a peaceful garden that welcomes any curious soul.

Green

When I first looked up the area on google maps, it showed me two green spaces. The first one was Rotary Park and the second one was City of Miami- Coral Nook Park.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

I first visited Rotary Park. Located at 512 Ponce De Leon Blvd, it is quite a small park and well hidden from the main intersections. It has a small playground, perfect for toddlers, and a few benches. I enjoyed how clean and well kept this park was. I recommend visiting this park if you have kids, want a light walk, or just want a peaceful space to unwind. This park is located in the area of West Flagler that meets coral gables.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

Next, I went to the City of Miami- Coral Nook Park. I had previously been to this park located on SW 5th st and 31st ave. To my surprise, when I went this last month for this research project, I was met with a construction site. There was no park and instead I found a building better neighborhoods sign from the city of Miami. The sign states that the commissioner presented a plan to improve the park and improve the traffic conditions on 5th st.

Unfortunately, this neighborhood did not have as many green spaces as I was expecting. I was expecting this since this neighborhood is packed with mostly housing spaces. It would be nice if the city were to build a bigger park but it would be a crime to demolish and displace the people living in this packed neighborhood. I do give the commissioner credit for not tearing down houses in the neighborhood in order to build a park and instead deciding to improve the park for the community.

Transportation

The main mode of transportation is the car. However, I did see signs where the Miami Dade Metrobus and the Coral Gables Trolley pick up users of the service.

Users of the Miami Dade Metrobus have to pay a fare of $2.25 each way. The Miami Dade metro buses that have routes in West Flagler are 8,8A,11, and 51 Flagler Max. These buses run seven days a week, 5am-12am.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

Users of the Coral Gables Trolley get to ride for free. The trolley only has two routes which consist of driving to and back through Ponce de Leon and Grand Ave. The trolley runs every 10-12 minutes during the weekdays and Saturdays 6:30am to 8 p.m

Food

This neighborhood is home to many great restaurants including the most iconic one for anyone that lives in Miami. I will shine a light on two hidden gems and tackle the legend of West Flagler.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

First we have El Atlakat. Located at 3199 SW 8th St, this restaurant focuses on authentic Salvadoran cuisine. As a Salvadoran-American myself, this is by far one of my favorite restaurants. It highlights my culture and the delicious food we have to offer. I definitely recommend trying pupusas since those are our national dish. Pupusas are thick corn tortillas that are stuffed with a filling. These fillings include but are not limited to beans, cheese, pork, and beef. The restaurant also provides other iconic Salvadoran dishes such as chicken soup served with corn and tortilla and Salvadoran Shrimp. I love seeing my culture being represented in a city that is so diverse. Definitely check out the restaurant and try a pupusa! Pupusas will change your life!

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

Next, we have Jacalito Mexican Restaurant. Located at 3622 W Flagler St, the restaurant is a hole in the wall, easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. They have a diverse and mouthwatering menu that will leave you craving for more. My personal favorite dishes are the beef gorditas, al pastor tacos, and enchiladas. If you are ever tired of eating croquetas and want a change of food for a day, I recommend coming to El Jacalito. You can never go wrong with some authentic Mexican food for an affordable price!

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

Finally, we have the most famous Cuban restaurant. Located at 3555 SW 8th St, Versailles Cuban Restaurant is more than just a restaurant. Since its doors opened in 1971, it has welcomed tourists and its own South Florida community. This restaurant is so important due to the fact that this is where Cubans come to gather. It is known to be the unofficial town square for Miami’s Cuban exiles. Versailles is usually the first place politicians visit locally to garner support from the Cuban exile community. The restaurant is also a favorite among the media for collecting commentary and footage of the community’s take on social and political issues. Often times we see protests happen here like the SOS Cuba movement from July 2021. But we also see the community gathering at Versailles for celebrations such as when the Miami Heat basketball team became eastern conference champions in 2020. The menu of the restaurant is peak Cuban cuisine. Customers have the ability to choose from different types of plates. From croquetas and pan con lechon to vaca frita and churrasco Versailles, there is a plate for everyone and it is impossible to leave hungry.

Businesses

West Flagler is a neighborhood booming with businesses. Many of these businesses highlight the impact of the Cuban culture and the party lifestyle of Miami.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The first business being highlighted is the Magic City Casino. Located at 450 NW 37th Ave, it is home to over 800 Las Vegas-style slot machines, poker rooms, Jai-Alai games, sports, and live music. The casino makes about 1 billion a year in slots. The casino is a booming business and a hub for those that want to have a great time in Miami. Unfortunately, I have never been in there due to being under 21, but the casino is a Miami staple. However, the casino does highlight the gambling issue within Miami. Gambling is illegal in Miami but the laws do have many loopholes. Due to this, gamblers can try to conduct their schemes through other activities such as Jai-Alai games.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The next business is Cuban Crafters Cigars. Located at 3604 N.W. 7th St, it is a business that focuses on making Cuban cigars. Established by Tabacalera Esteli, his cigars are is recognized by aficionados throughout the world. He is also known to be a high-quality tobacco grower and creator of boutique premium cigars. For years the business has been making cigars using classic Cuban techniques. The cigars are handmade in small batches by professional rollers. It is worth noting that the whole process is handmade, there are no machines involved whatsoever. It is often said that the cigars made here have a unique and enjoyable taste and characteristics that make them highly craved by cigar fans. I do not smoke or condone it so personally, I will never try one, but if you are a cigar fan, this business might be for you. Customers have the ability to order their cigars and any accessories online as well as in-store. This business also highlights the impact of Cuban culture. West Flagler is home to one of the biggest Cuban cigar factories in South Florida.

Photograph taken by Natalia Sanchez/ CC by 4.0

The last business that I found interesting is called Don Camaron Miami. Located at 501 NW 37th Ave, Don Camaron is both a restaurant and fish market. It has a variety of dishes on the menu which any seafood enthusiast will enjoy. The fresh market also provides customers with a fresh and broad selection of fish. They also provide Florida lobsters and stone crabs when they are in season. Their prices are both affordable and expensive for those who can afford to pay that much for their fish.

Summary

West Flagler welcomed me with open arms. I enjoyed visiting the neighborhood and learning about its culture. I had the privilege to visit many important establishments within the neighborhood. This project showed me just how important it is to go out into the raw neighborhoods of Miami in order to fall in love with a city rich in diversity. I definitely recommend you to visit West Flagler the next time you are near the neighborhood.

Sources

About – Stmichaelmiami.org. https://www.stmichaelmiami.org/about-us.

“About Us.” Miami Dade County Auditorium, 3 Aug. 2021, https://www.miamidadecountyauditorium.org/about-us/.

“Admissions.” St. Michael the Archangel Catholic School – Home, http://stmacs.org/admissions/.

Casino, Magic City. “Welcome to Magic City Casino.” Welcome to Magic City Casino, https://www.magiccitycasino.com/.

“Don Camaron Seafood Grill & Fish Market.” Doncamaron, https://www.doncamaronrestaurant.com/.

“El Atlakat Restaurant, Especialidad En Comida Salvadoreña y Latino Americana.” El Atlakat, https://elatlakat.com/.

EvoGov.com. “Coral Gables Trolley.” City of Coral Gables – Coral Gables Trolley, https://www.coralgables.com/trolley-services.

EvoGov.com. “Rotary Centennial Park.” City of Coral Gables – Rotary Centennial Park, https://www.coralgables.com/departments/CommunityRecreation/RotaryCentennialPark.

“Fish Market.” Doncamaron, https://www.doncamaronrestaurant.com/fish-market.

“Gambling in Miami.” Frommer’s, https://www.frommers.com/destinations/miami/gambling.

“Home.” Cuban Crafters Cigars, https://cubancrafters.com/cuban-cigars/.

“Home.” Mysite, https://www.jacalitomexicanrestaurant.com/.

“Magic City Casino Tops 1 Billion a Year in Slots Play.” Miami Today, 9 June 2013, https://www.miamitodaynews.com/news/120202/story3.shtml#:~:text=Despite%20taking%20in%20more%20than,pari%2Dmutuels%20need%20worry%20about.

Person. “What Is a Pupusa?” Greatist, Greatist, 14 Oct. 2021, https://greatist.com/eat/what-is-a-pupusa.

Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Metrobus Routes & Schedules.” Miami, https://www.miamidade.gov/transportation-publicworks/routes.asp.

“Teatro Trail, UN Espacio Considerado Ícono De La Ciudad De Miami.” Teatro Trail, https://teatrotrail.com/.

Transit Fares and Parking Fees, https://www.miamidade.gov/global/service.page?Mduid_service=ser1617316231654558.

“West Flagler Neighborhood in Miami, Florida (FL), 33125, 33126, 33134, 33135 Detailed Profile.” West Flagler Neighborhood in Miami, Florida (FL), 33125, 33126, 33134, 33135 Subdivision Profile – Real Estate, Apartments, Condos, Homes, Community, Population, Jobs, Income, Streets, http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/West-Flagler-Miami-FL.html.

“Who We Are.” Versailles, https://www.versaillesrestaurant.com/about.

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