Natalia Sanchez is a senior pursuing her B.S. in criminal justice 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 goes to local concerts, museums, and Miami Heat basketball games.
Sweetwater is located in the county of Miami-Dade in the state of Florida in the United States of America. This neighborhood is located at 27°24’34″N 81°42’9″W (27.4094900, -81.7025800)(mapsofnet). Sweetwater has a total area of 6.22 km2 (mapsofnet). Sweetwater is mostly buildings and housing but it does have a few green areas and small bodies of water. Sweetwater also borders the Ronald Reagan Turnpike. Sweetwater is the host of the famous Dolphin Mall and is 15 minutes away from Downtown Miami.
The neighborhood of Sweetwater was originally called “Sweetwater Groves” and the land was acquired in 1920. The original owners of the Sweetwater Groves were the Miami-Pittsburgh Land Company. The company started to develop the land but a hurricane hit south Florida in 1926. This forced the company to abandon the development projects of Sweetwater Groves.
Around 1938, a man called Clyde Andrews was able to acquire most of the Sweetwater Groves. Soon enough he started to sell multiple lots of land to various buyers. One of his famous buyers was a group of Russian dwarfs. This group was looking for an area in which they could come to after retiring from the circus. They were able to construct various mini homes for the group and for the next few years, sweetwater was known as the “dwarf” community (cityofsweetwater).
In 1941, Sweetwater had its first successful election for leadership. The first elected mayor was Joe Sanderlin and he was known to be the guardian and manager of the dwarf community. By 1959, Sweetwater had a population of 500 residents and 183 homes. The neighborhood had finally established a town hall, church, grocery store, service station, two-man police force, and a volunteer fire department. By 1970, Sweetwater had about 3,000 residents, showing that it was still a small community.
However, later in the 1970s, many events occurred that dramatically changed Sweetwater. The construction of Florida International University and two major expressways started. There was also a boom in the Hispanic community moving to the neighborhood. Because of these factors, the population of sweetwater grew drastically (cityofsweetwater).
Sweetwater is known to be a small but mighty neighborhood within Miami. As of 2021, this neighborhood has a population of 21,125. Of the total population, 48.24% are male and 51.76% are female (beaconcouncil). As of 2021. the median age is 43. As of 2021, Sweetwater has a labor force of 10,096 people. There were also about 1,757 businesses around the neighborhood. The median household income is $47,283 (beaconcouncil).
Sweetwater is a predominantly Hispanic community with 95.5% of the population being from this background. According to Data USA, the three largest ethnic groups in sweetwater are white Hispanics, white non-Hispanics, and black or African-American Hispanics. The top four countries in which the sweetwater community is mostly from are Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Colombia.
For my student interview, I decided to highlight my friend Adriana Santos. She is currently a 21-year-old student studying crime science at Florida International University. She has been living in Sweetwater her whole life along with her family. Here is how our interview went:
NS: Hey Adriana! Thank you so much for meeting with me today!
AS: Hey and no thank you for choosing me for this interview!
NS: Tell me about your experience growing up in the neighborhood of Sweetwater?
AS: This has always been a peaceful and safe neighborhood. I feel safe walking from my house to my local park with my grandma. I have also been able to meet a lot of my neighbors since everyone here is pretty friendly. I think it is convenient that I have always had everything I need at a pretty close distance.
NS: Elaborate on what you mean by “everything I need”
AS: Well my favorite park and the elementary school I went to are within walking distance from my house. I am also about 5 minutes away from FIU and about 10 minutes from dolphin mall. I am able to easily do grocery shopping because there are so many shopping centers and restaurants around.
NS: Any last recommendations or tips for those who have never been to Sweetwater before?
AS: I’d say definitely come check out the neighborhood if you love to try foods from various cultures. We have restaurants from a lot of countries such as Spain, Nicaragua, China, and India.
While exploring the neighborhood of Sweetwater, I was curious to see if they had any landmarks. To my surprise, I was able to find three! I will be focusing on the women’s history gallery, J C Montiel monument, and dolphin mall.
The first landmark I visited was the women’s history gallery. This gallery is located within the women’s park which I will tackle later on in the paper. The gallery highlights the women of the united states. But most importantly, it highlights the women that played a role in improving the lives of those living in Miami-dade county. I think having this gallery is crucial because women played a role in the establishment of Miami. Credit should be given where credit is due. The gallery was rather small but it does have plenty of historical information. I am not sure if the gallery is open to the public. The door did say that the gallery is open from 9:am-5:00pm but when I tried opening the door it was locked. However, I was able to meet with a young man called Ivan. He is a Miami-dade parks and recreational employee and he was able to unlock the gallery for me to explore. Special thanks to him!
When I visited Carlow Park, I stumbled upon the monument of commissioner Jose C. Montiel. According to the sign, he is being highlighted in the community because he was committed to sweetwater and had many accomplishments. I tried conducting further research about who he was but I could find no information. A critique I have for the neighborhood of sweetwater is to provide historical details about Montiel since he seems to be an important figure within this community.
The last landmark I visited was Dolphin mall. I consider Dolphin Mall a landmark because it attracts so much tourism and if you grew up in Miami, then shopping at this mall was a staple. According to statistics, tourists spend an average of 4.1 times more money than the locals. I, unfortunately, was not able to find any more data as of 2022.
I was able to successfully find three green areas within Sweetwater. They are all parks. The parks I visited are the women’s park, Carlow park, and dominoes park.
The first park I visited was the women’s park. Located at 10251 W Flagler St, the women’s park is a 15-acre park. The park is open from 7:00 am to sunset. It offers a path that is amazing for walking, running, biking, and skateboarding. It also has a large playground for children. Scattered around the park, you have a plethora of benches and tables where one can relax or eat. This is the same historical park that I mentioned in the landmarks portion of this report. Personally, this is one of my favorite parks in sweetwater because it has so much space for you to do any outdoor activity you desire.
The second park I visited was Carlow Park. Located at 10601 SW 5th St, this park also provides visitors with tons of options for outdoor activity. It has a trail for those that enjoy running or biking. It also has a large playground area for children. If you enjoy playing basketball or tennis, you are in luck! This park also has a basketball and tennis court, both open and free for the public. This park has a few tables and benches, all under the shade. The park is open every Monday through Saturday from 8:00AM to 9:00PM. Sundays it opens from 7:00 AM to 8:00PM.
The last park I visited was the domino park. To my surprise, this park has been closed until further notice. Located at 10620 SW 7th Terrace, it has a mini playground for children and a table for the public to play dominoes. When I arrived at the park, the gates were heavily locked. There was no sign explaining why the park was shut down and when it would re-open. I also researched online and looked through the Sweetwater website but they provided no information as to what happened with this park. The park looks spacious and clean so I hope the neighborhood reopens it to the public.
Sweetwater offers its residents and visitors three methods of transportation. These are the Miami-Dade MetroBus, the Sweetwater trolley, and freebee transportation.
The Sweetwater trolley is able to provide its services for free. The trolleys take about an hour and a half to complete their route. Their route starts in the Sweetwater Maintenance and Transit Department located at 1701 NW 110TH Avenue. It takes the public to major destinations such as dolphin mall, international mall, Florida International University, and any other destination within the borders of sweetwater. Every Monday through Friday, the Sweetwater trolley runs from 8:00 am to 7:00 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, it runs from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. It does not run on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s. But during other legal holidays, the trolley runs from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.
The last method of public transportation that is provided to the public of Sweetwater is the Freebee. Freebee is a transportation method that provides the public free rides with fully electric vehicles. In order to request a ride, you have to download their Freebee app. Their routes are local and they usually have a certain number of electric cars per community. Their hours are as follows: Mon-Fri 6:30am-7:00pm, Saturday 12pm-10pm, Sunday-Closed.
Sweetwater had a plethora of restaurants from different backgrounds to choose from. I decided to highlight Good Chef Restaurant, Carne Asada Tortilleria Nica, and El Buen pan.
Located at 113 SW 107th Ave, the good chef restaurant is a 4.9-star Asian restaurant. Their menu consists of a variety of dumplings, ramen, dry noodles, main courses, rice dishes, soups, and desserts. Their beverages consist of the popular drink called bubble tea. This drink is a type of iced tea that brings chewable tapioca balls. They also sell normal fruit teas.
The next restaurant I visited was Carne Asada Tortilleria Nica. Located at 10404 W Flagler St, this fritanga is a 4.4 star Nicaraguan restaurant. Nicaraguans refer to their restaurants as “fritangas” so I will refer to the restaurant as such for the rest of my highlight of it. This restaurant has a plethora of meats, rice, soups, bakery goods, Nicaraguan drinks, and desserts. This is personally one of my favorite fritangas within sweetwater. My to-go order is a plate of gallo pinto, which is the Nicaraguan take on rice and beans, carne asada which is steak, platanos aka plantains, and queso frito aka fried cheese.
The third food destination I decided to visit was El Buen Pan. Located at 10354 W Flagler St, El Buen Pan is a 4.5-star Colombian bakery and restaurant. They sell Colombian breakfast and lunch combos. They also sell empanadas, pan the bono, and other pastries. My personal favorite is the pan de Bono. This is a cheese pastry that is very rich in flavor.
Sweetwater is a neighborhood with a plethora of businesses. However, these are my top three choices that I will recommend. These three options show the diversity of this neighborhood. Conveniently enough, these three businesses are also within the same shopping center. The three businesses I decided to check out were Hanna & Tiger Asian mart, Spice n Curry, and Pauline Books and Media.
The first business I checked out was Hanna & Tiger Asian mart. Located at 115 SW 107th Ave, this mart has all of your favorite snacks and products from various Asian countries. From Ramune (Japanese carbonated soft drink), to shrimp flavored chips, this mart has a treat for anyone. They also import vegetables and kitchen tools from Asian countries that you may not find at your local American food store. I personally enjoyed visiting this store because I love Asian treats. My favorite snacks were the hello kitty-themed cookies and marshmallows. Their store hours are Monday-Sunday from 10:00am to 10:00 pm.
The second business I decided to check out was Spice N curry. Located at 123 SW 107th Ave, this business is an Indian grocery store. They import their products from India and also make their traditional food in the store so the public can buy. Their products range from spices, vegetables, snacks, drinks, incense, and baked goods. They provide a menu online of their specialties. I definitely recommend trying their samosas, dal of the day, and basmati rice. Their store hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 12:00pm to 8:00pm. Sundays they are open from 12:00pm to 5:00pm and they are closed on Mondays.
The third business that I decided to check out was Pauline Books and Media. Located at 145 SW 107th Ave, this establishment focuses on the distribution of Catholic books and media. This bookstore does not have a website so if you would like to shop you would have to go in person. The store has a variety of religious and motivational books. This establishment was rather interesting for me because I had never seen or visited a bookstore that is strictly for a religion. The store hours are Monday-Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm. They are closed on Sundays.
Exploring the neighborhood of Sweetwater was fun! I was able to learn so much about the history, local restaurants, businesses, and parks. I truly enjoyed visiting these various destinations and trying new foods or meeting new people. Visiting this neighborhood allowed me to step out of my comfort zone.
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“Transit Schedule.” City of Sweetwater, 13 Apr. 2021, https://cityofsweetwater.fl.gov/transit-schedule/.