Ashley Sanchez is a Cuban American fourth-year student at Florida International University who was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She graduated with an Associates in Arts degree from Miami Dade College in 2018. After receiving her AA degree, she transferred to FIU in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation and Recreational Therapy. She is currently in the FIU Honors College and is part of the Pre-Therapy Students Association. She has also competed in several intramural sports at FIU including human foosball, volleyball, and kickball. She will begin applying to different graduate programs in the upcoming year to further her education in pursuit of becoming an Occupational Therapist. Ashley has a passion for adventure, sports, dancing and loves to spend quality time with her family and friends.
The city of West Miami is not as widely known as many of the other cities in South Florida, even for individuals who have lived in South Florida all their lives. The city has a fairly short history being that it has been less than a century since it was incorporated in 1947. It is located in the U.S. state of Florida nestled between Tamiami Trail and Coral Way. Although the city is small in mileage-only three-quarters of a square mile long-it has a lot to offer its residents and visitors (“City of West Miami – Official Website”, n.d.). It is one of the 34 municipalities that belong to Miami-Dade County-among the other 33 municipalities are Miami Beach, Hialeah, Homestead, Florida City, Doral, etc. (“Miami Dade At A Glance”, n.d.). The city lies at “3 feet/1 meter” altitude and has a density of “4,767 Pop. per km² as of 2020” (“West Miami, FL – Geographic Facts & Maps”, n.d.).
It’s hard to believe that reduced cocktail hours and banned gambling rooms were what propelled four men to establish a new city in Miami-Dade County, yet, that was the exact push they needed to incorporate the city of West Miami in 1947. When the county began implementing these restrictions, four businessmen and a group of residents each invested $400 which went towards the development of the new city. The area that is now called West Miami was first inhabited by veterans who served in WWII since lots were being given out for free to encourage settlement in the area. The city has grown immensely over the years especially since it started with a population of only 700 residents (“City of West Miami – Official Website”, n.d.). According to Data USA, the amount of residents the city has as of 2019 is 7,788 (“West Miami, FL”, n.d.).
Most of West Miami’s residents, 92.3% to be exact, are primarily Hispanic which should come to no surprise because of its close proximity to Calle Ocho and Little Havana. Sixty-three percent of the city’s residents were born outside of the country and most of the common origins of the foreign-born residents are either Cuba, Haiti or Columbia. The residents have a median age of 44.9, however, the median age for native-born residents is 23 and for foreign-born residents it is 54. West Miami is also home to many military personnel who served in either one of the Gulf Wars or the Vietnam War. As of 2019, West Miami has a median household income of $49,942, a median property value of $335,800, an employed population of 3,854, and finally, a poverty rate of 15.8% (“West Miami, FL”, n.d.).
Interview with Mirtha
Ashley: “Hello, please introduce yourself”
Mirtha: “Hello, how are you? My name is Mirtha”
Ashley: “Have you always lived in West Miami?”
Mirtha: “No, I also lived in Boston for 2 years.”
Ashley: “Have you noticed any changes in the city since you first moved here?”
Mirtha: “Yes, there have been many changes. Before there was more compliance as to the rules of the city. Now the city is adding many buildings all around and has diminished the value of our homes, has added more residents which equals a lot more traffic. Having these renters now, also increases the chance of crime in our safe neighborhood. West Miami has always been known to be a “Residential” area and these buildings have taken away the “character” this city once had.”
Ashley: “What is one thing you would change?”
Mirtha: “One thing I’ll change is ….Construction of high rise buildings not buildings period. Keep it a residential area. We rather they increase our taxes, then bring these building in.”
Ashley: “What’s your favorite thing about the city?”
Mirtha: “What I love about this city is the neighbors we’ve had for many many years. We are lucky to have at least 8 neighbors that have been with us the 25 years. One of the reasons we have great neighbors is because they are homeowners instead of renters, they care for the city as much as we do.”
Ashley: “Why did you choose to live here?”
Mirtha: “We chose to live here because it’s very centric to anything in the city. I always wanted anything easy of the palmetto. I love that it’s a small city too. Lower taxes, less congestion.”
Ashley: “Alright, those were all my questions. Thank you for your time”
West Miami City Hall
The West Miami City Hall office opens Monday-Friday 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM and is located on 901 SW 62nd Avenue. It serves as a passport office where individuals can apply for new passports, minor passports, or replacement passports. The city hall hosts a variety of different meetings such as planning and zoning meetings; regular city commission meetings; red light camera hearings; and code enforcement meetings throughout the week. Their mission statement says “The City of West Miami takes pride in delivering efficient city services to residents and to the businesses located within our Municipal boundaries. We take pride in our ability to deliver personalized service” (“Mission Statement”, n.d.) .
Temple Beth Tov-Ahavat Shalom
Temple Beth Tov-Ahavat Shalom is located in West Miami on 6438 SW 8th Street. It was the first ever traditional synagogue to be established in West Miami back in 1955. Most of the credit for the establishment of the synagogue should be accredited to Morris Harris who was the first president under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Maurice Klein. The synagogue has a lot to offer its members, some of which include: “…religious services on Fridays nights, Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays…Adult Education classes as well as Conversion classes…guest speakers, Holiday Dinners & Mizvot Programs…[and a] Sisterhood and Men’s Club also [which] offers a variety of programs and activities” (“Welcome to Temple Beth Tov, Ahavat Shalom, a House of Prayer and Study”, n.d.).
American Flag in Cooper Park
The American Flag stands tall facing the rest of Cooper Park, or Edmund P. Cooper Park, located on 57th Avenue and 16th Street. The flag serves as a symbol of freedom and as recognition of the privilege Americans have to live in this country. The monument serves as a commemoration of two Jewish War Veterans from 1951-their busts can be found on either side of the flag. There is a slab underneath the flag that reads “To the glorious memory of our comrades of every race, color, and creed who have made the supreme sacrifice that this monument might stand in a free America”.
Garden Club Park
Garden Club Park is a very small park that belongs to the city of West Miami. The park is fully gated making it a great option for parents with small children, that way, they don’t have to worry about their children running into the street. The park has a playground area and picnic benches and it is located on 6585 SW 12th St.
Edmund P. Cooper Park
Edmund P. Cooper Park (also called just Cooper Park) is a park I personally grew up going to. The newly renovated park has a lot to offer including: two different playgrounds; a sand area with swing sets; a gazebo for birthday parties and events; parking for its guests; sidewalk throughout the perimeter of the park for rollerskating, skateboarding, walking, biking, etc.; and much more. The park is located on 5751 SW 16th St.
West Miami Recreation Center
The West Miami Recreation Center has a lot to offer and it is conveniently located in the heart of the city on 901 SW 67th Avenue. The Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility building is open Monday-Friday but the outdoor facilities are open 7 days a week. Some of the facilities the park has to offer include: “two basketball courts; two tennis courts; a four-wall racquetball court; a multi-purpose field for baseball, t-ball, soccer, football; a playground, some shaded trees; picnic tables; and park benches” (“West Miami Recreation Center”, n.d.). And the Rebeca Sosa Multipurpose Facility contains a billiards table, two foosball tables, a TV with movie options, and several board games to choose from.
Many individuals in West Miami get around by car-although that might change in the upcoming years due to the raise in gas prices. Most houses have at least 2 cars parked in their driveways and the streets of the quaint city are usually packed with cars that are parallel parked against the sidewalks. An added benefit is that the city is located minutes from State Road 826/Palmetto Expressway which travels North from U.S. 1 and that has a convenient 8th St. exit that can lead drivers directly to the city. Some individuals bike or walk around the city as well.
Residents and visitors have the option of downloading an app, such as Uber or Lyft, that will allow them to request a ride from a local driver. Companies such as Uber or Lyft hire drivers who use an app to take requests from individuals who need a ride to a specific place. These two companies have grown immensely within the past few years, making it super accessible and easy to get a ride within minutes.
Freebee is a newer company of fully electric vehicles that service smaller, local communities such as West Miami. It allows individuals to “experience their local communities without the stress of parking and traffic…while aiding the economic development of local communities and advocating for a greener, safer earth” (“Freebee”, n.d.).
Lastly, another option of transportation available to West Miami is the Metrobus. It is a great way to get around the city for cheap. “Metrobus serves all major shopping, entertainment and cultural centers, as well as major hospitals and schools. Service is available from Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, West Miami-Dade, Broward County, Homestead, Florida City and the Middle Keys” (“Metrobus”, n.d.).
El Mago de las Fritas
The Cardenas family opened their own restaurant in 1984 when they moved to Miami, Florida from Cuba. The Cardenas named their restaurant El Mago de la Fritas because when Ortelio and Eva Cardenas lived in Cuba, Ortelio was coined as El Mago when making fritas. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network, Food & Wine, Miami New Times, Man v. Food, and the Travel Channel. The restaurant is not only known for its Cuban frita, however, the restaurant’s hot dog was voted the best hot dog in all of Florida in 2020. The restaurant can be found on 8th St. and 58th Ave. and it opens Monday-Saturday from 10:30am until 8 or 9pm (“El Mago de las Fritas”, n.d.).
La Palma is another great Cuban option when it comes to finding great authentic Cuban food in West Miami. The restaurant opened back in 1979 and it is known for its Cuban food, but it also offers Caribbean and Latin American food options. Some of their menu items include: picadillo (ground beef), sopa de platanos (plantain soup), pan con lechon (roast pork sandwich), and ropa vieja (shredded beef). You can find La Palma on 60th Ave. and 8th St. (“La Palma Restaurant in West Miami , FL”, n.d.).
Sarussi Subs has been serving the city of West Miami for over 50 years. This restaurant is located on 8th St. and 67th Ave. They are most known for their Cuban sandwiches and their Original Sandwich, but Sarussi Subs serves all types of famous Cuban dishes. The restaurant has even been featured in two different Travel Channel shows called Miami Hot Spots and Man v. Food. On their website they mention that their mission is to “continue bringing our dear customers the best Cuban food and always that warm place of family gathering” (“The Authentic Cuban Sandwich”, n.d.).
Belleza Femenina is a Columbian shapewear store. The store sells authentic Columbian shapers that come in all different styles: panty, capri, short, boxer, ankle length, and cincher. The business also sells accessory items such as: neck wraps, compression sleeves, abdominal binders, and post-surgical bras. Belleza Femenina can be found on 62nd Ave. and 8th St. On their website they mention “We offer a variety girdles models for reduction of measures, post-surgery, exercise, among others. We have 15 years of experience in the Colombian girdles market and we offer the most exclusive collections of the brands” (“Home – Belleza Femenina – BF Shapewear”, n.d.).
VCA Cabrera Animal Hospital
VCA Cabrera Animal Hospital is dedicated to providing quality care to their four-legged patients. Their top priority is for their patients to receive the best possible health care and to make sure that their staff is trained on the latest veterinary procedures and medicines. They treat dogs, cats, and other pets as well. The business has a lot of different services to offer its patients including: “…orthopedic surgery, digital radiology, laser surgery, in-house ultrasounds, artificial inseminations, breeding assistance, nutritional health, endoscopy, microchipping, behavioral concerns, acupuncture, and holistic medications” (“Our Hospital: VCA Cabrera Animal Hospital: VCA.”, n.d.). The VCA Cabrera Animal Hospital is located on 63rd Ave. and 8th St. Their well-trained staff members consist of veterinarians, technicians, client services representatives, pet care specialists, and a hospital manager.
AnotherLevelFit is a gym/physical fitness center that is located on 895 SW 67th Ave. The small business is open 7 days a week and it offers a variety of fitness classes for all ages and fitness levels. Their goal is to motivate others to be the best version of themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. They want to change the stigma exercise has of being a chore or obligation, rather, they want their members to look at exercise as a way to achieve an overall healthier lifestyle. The gym has a fairly small space, however, it is equipped with a large array of gym equipment to meet the needs of all its members. The description on their Facebook page says “The satisfaction of our mission lies in showing individuals their perceived limits and fears. Teaching them how to overcome them, followed by celebrating their success, as they surpass their limits!” (“AnotherLevelFit”, n.d.).
Overall, the city has its pros and cons. West Miami is a small city, one that not many South Floridian locals even know about. It is a great city to raise a family and it has many options to choose from to go out to eat, enjoy a day at a park, etc. Its central location makes it very convenient to live in since it is less than a 30 minute drive from most major cities in South Florida. The city is considered a safe and family-friendly place with a low crime rate.
Although West Miami takes pride in its low crime rate, their overall cost of living are substantially above average when compared to the national average. Employment in West Miami is also not exceptional since the median household income and the income per capita are both substantially lower when compared to the U.S. average.
The population has definitely grown throughout the years, making the once quiet and quaint city to be densely populated and packed. With the addition of large apartment buildings in the heart of the city, the tranquil environment the city used to take pride on has changed over the years. Since Miami, as a whole, has had to adjust to the influx of individuals moving into the city, the demand for more housing has propagated small cities like West Miami to expand. This, however, does not please the residents.
Living or visiting West Miami will make anyone feel like they are no longer in the United States because of the city’s immense cultural diversity. It is incredible to see how many Hispanics have populated West Miami over the years. A large percent of the population are first generation immigrants, like my parents, who have raised their children as Americans while still instilling in them the culture from their native country. Since there are so many immigrants, they have made West Miami their home by bringing their cultures and customs with them, for example, the Cardenas family who started their own Cuban Frita restaurant in their new hometown. This is what makes cities thrive. This is what has helped West Miami be the successful, multicultural melting pot it is today.
“Anotherlevelfit.” Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/AnotherLevelFit/.
Home – Belleza Femenina – BF Shapewear. https://www.bfshapewear.com/.
“City of West Miami – Official Website .” City of West Miami – Official Website , https://cityofwestmiamifl.com/.
El Mago De Las Fritas, http://elmagodelasfritas.com/.
“La Palma Restaurant in West Miami , FL.” YP.com, https://www.yellowpages.com/west-miami-fl/mip/la-palma-restaurant-95803.
Miami-Dade County at-A-GLANCE. https://www.miamidade.gov/information/library/at-a-glance.pdf.
“Mission Statement.” City of West Miami – Official Website , https://cityofwestmiamifl.com/index.asp?SEC=61161D64-4EB5-4B21-9EDB-F286C8DCD0DF&Type=B_BASIC.
“Our Hospital: VCA Cabrera Animal Hospital: VCA.” Cabrera, https://vcahospitals.com/cabrera/hospital.
Temple Beth Tov, Ahavat Shalom. “Welcome to Temple Beth Tov, Ahavat Shalom, a House of Prayer and Study.” TEMPLE BETH TOV, AHAVAT SHALOM, INC., https://bethtovahavatshalom.org/.
“The Authentic Cuban Sandwich.” Sarussi Subs, https://sarussisubs.com/.
“West Miami, FL.” Data USA, https://datausa.io/profile/geo/west-miami-fl/.
“West Miami Miami-Dade County, Florida.” West Miami, FL – Geographic Facts & Maps – MapSof.net, https://www.mapsof.net/west-miami.
West Miami Recreation Center – Westmiamifl.govoffice3.Com. https://westmiamifl.govoffice3.com/vertical/sites/%7B43D8A331-4B65-45FE-843C-E0F6FE3CD0E8%7D/uploads/ASC_Program_Pamphlet_2020-2021.pdf.