Hello everyone, my name is Angelo Gomez. I’m nineteen years old and born here in Miami of Colombian descent. I’m currently a junior at Florida International University majoring in Political Science and Journalism. I am interning as a reporter for the South Florida Media Network at FIU. I enjoy learning new things and concepts. I speak Spanish and English, with a little mix of Italian and Portuguese here and there. I love to travel even though I don’t do it often enough. I’m a huge Marvel and Star Wars geek, a history nerd, and a soccer enthusiast.
Nestled in the geographical center of Miami-Dade County, there is no shortage of neighboring towns surrounding the city of Hialeah. They include Miami Lakes to the north, Hialeah Gardens to the West, Medley and Miami Springs to the south, and Opa-Locka, West Little River, Gladeview, and Brownsville to the east.
The city’s southern borders are mainly delineated by Okeechobee Road and by Amelia Earhart Park and FL State Road 916 (also known as NW 138th St) to the north. Hialeah’s urban geography is box and grid-like, while the neighboring towns of Miami Lakes and Miami Springs have differing street layouts more typical of suburbs.
Hialeah’s “main street” is considered 49th street, where the Westland Mall and Palm Springs Mile shopping plaza is located. Miami Dade College’s Hialeah Campus is also located on 49th street. Hialeah’s iconic JFK Library and Milander Park and Stadium are located across Red Road.
Hialeah is notorious for its lack of green space. In a study released by WalletHub, was ranked with the lowest percentage of green space in the entire country. Another study by WalletHub ranked Hialeah as the sixth-worst city in Recreation and parks.
A quick glance at the neighboring Miami Springs or Miami Lakes depicts more lakes and canals, and green spaces such as parks, golf courses, or pastures.
Hialeah was developed by Glenn Curtis and James H. Bright and incorporated in 1921. The name “Hialeah” is a native indigenous term that means “high prairie.” During the city’s early years, the Hialeah Park and Casino was the city’s central attraction that brought visitors from all across the United States. During the 1920s until the beginning of the Great Depression, Hialeah blossomed into a tourist destination with a strong economy.
Traditionally, Hialeah has been a blue-collar city, home to the working class. Most of the workers of the Hialeah Park and Casino settled in the new city due to its cheap property value and short distance. The first homes developed in Hialeah were built off of County Road (now known as Okeechobee Road) and Hialeah Drive (First Street) with Palm Avenue. The city’s first homes, post offices, and shops were located around this area.
Following the 1926 Miami hurricane and the Great Depression, Hialeah experienced a post-war boom during the mid-century onwards. Led by iconic city mayor Henry Milander, who now has a park and stadium in the city named after him, he guided the city through an economic boom for more than three decades. According to the Miami Herald, the mayor offered tax incentives for businesses and industries to settle in Hialeah which payed off for the city. Likewise, the city experienced a population boom since its incorporation, growing at one of the fastest rates and being the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida.
Since the 1960s, there has been a great influx of Cuban exiles and Hispanic residents into the city of Hialeah. Many families fleeing from their former countries landed in Hialeah because of its inexpensive prices and joined the working community.
Hialeah is notorious for its Hispanic identity, and most notably for its Cuban population. These perceptions are largely true since the city’s population is 94% Hispanic and 73.37% Cuban. Hialeah is considered to be the largest population of Cuban residents in the entire United States. Policies such as the Cuban Adjustment Act and the “wet foot, dry foot” policy have facilitated Cuban exiles and refugees to settle in Miami and get their legal status. Thus, much have flocked to Hialeah to be surrounded by their culture. In a city originally founded by white settlers and pioneers, Hialeah has undergone a profound transformation.
Other demographic statistics show that 92.14% of the population speak Spanish primarily at home, and nearly 7% of the population speak English at home. Of the nearly 237,000 population, 74.3% of residents were born outside of the country and only 65.8% of residents are U.S. citizens, significantly lower than the national average. Hialeah is dominated by a Hispanic, foreign-born population. The city is considered the #2 city where Spanish is most spoken in the entire United States, behind Hialeah Gardens.
What is your name and how long have you been living in Hialeah?
Hi, my name is Leslia Balladares and I have been living in Hialeah for about eight years.
What do you love about your city?
I love everything about my city, except traffic which is the worst.
How do you get around?
I don’t have a car so I get around everywhere through Uber for now.
What is your favorite restaurant?
My favorite restaurant is absolutely Los Ranchos Steakhouse near Westland Mall.
Hialeah Park and Casino
Built originally in 1922 by Glenn Curtis and James L. Bright, the Hialeah Park and race track served as a track for grayhound races and betting. Soon, it opened to horse racing and betting. Following the Miami hurricane of 1926, it was rebuilt and redeveloped into the new “Hialeah Park and Casino.” This is the most iconic landmark in Hialeah, and one of the most historic places in Miami, being one of the earliest recreational sites. The city’s website names “the Kennedy family, Harry Truman, General Omar Bradley, Winston Churchill, and J.P. Morgan” as some of the more popular figures that visited the place. In fact, Winston Churchill is quoted saying the place was “Extraordinary!” The site remained very popular throughout the later decades of the twentieth century and was reopened in 2013 with a casino and reintroducing quarter horse racing.
The John F. Kennedy Library on 49th street is the main campus of the Hialeah public library system. With its colorful murals surrounding the building, it is an attractive site to visit in Hialeah. There are often new murals and artwork outside the building, including a portrait of President John F. Kennedy and a trojan solider. The library offers a unique and extensive collection of Hialeah history. The site is a voting location during local and national elections.
Leah Arts District
The Leah Arts District is a sector in Hialeah dedicated to public art and offering local artists “affordable living / work spaces while promoting art and culture,” according to the city’s website. Opened in 2015, stage festivals and public displays of art are organized to promote the up-and-coming art scene and artists that reside within the eccentric neighborhood. It is Hialeah’s unique take on public art similar to Wynwood and South Beach, but with its own local taste.
Despite being listed as one of the worst cities for Parks and recreation, Hialeah offers a variety of small parks and green areas to visit.
Amelia Earhart Park
Amelia Earhart park is a 515-acre park in Hialeah which offers a wide variety of activities, such as biking, walking trails, soccer fields, extreme water sports, fishing piers, and picnic shelters. Amelia Earhart is one of the larger parks in Miami-Dade County available to Hialeah residents. The park is named after famous pilot Amelia Earhart since the former Miami Municipal Airport (now Opa-Locka Airport) nearby was her final appearance and goodbye before disappearing over the Atlantic.
Milander Park is a 19.2 acre park, aquatic center, arts and entrainment venue, and stadium located on 49th street in Hialeah. The site has multiple basketball and baseball fields for recreational use. Additionally, there is a playground for children to use. The venue is used to display art exhibits and to host special events. The Ted Hendricks stadium is used for a variety of sporting events for different high schools and host the semi-professional soccer club Miami United.
Garden of the Arts
Garden of the arts is small, open-air art display inside of a green park in Hialeah. This passive park consists of murals, sculptures, monuments, and a small amphitheater where guests can roam and walk around while admiring the artwork on display. According to their website, the City of Hialeah built this green park through he county’s Building Better Communities Bond Program.
Like the rest of Miami-Dade County, Hialeah is dominated by cars as the primary mode of transportation. According to DataUSA, the majority of households in Hialeah have two or three cars. The major highway that passes through the center of Hialeah is the Florida 826 (Palmetto Expressway). The Florida Turnpike is nearby to the west and the Gratigny Parkway is accessible at the northern boundary, connecting Hialeah commuters to both I-75 to the west and I-95 to the east. Likewise, the Okeechobee Road delineates the city’s southern border and is accessible by taking the I-595/FL State Road 112 westward until it ends at Okeechobee Road near the Miami International Airport.
The city also offers public transportation, the Hialeah transit system. The buses run on two separate routes – the Marlin and Flamingo routes. The city’s website lists a full fare as $2.25 or a full monthly pass for $60.
Likewise, there are several public transportation options offered by Miami-Dade County that are accessible in Hialeah. The Metrobus offers many routes that connect or pass by Hialeah that are operational daily. The MetroRail has multiple stations in the city, such as the Tri-Rail/MetroRail, Okeechobee, and Hialeah stations. In the Miami Station, Amtrak trains and Tri-Rail trains are accessible to residents. Finally, the Tri-Rail has two stations within the city: in the Tri-Rail/MetroRail station and the Hialeah Market station leading to the airport.
Molina’s Ranch Restaurant
This restaurant opened in 1982, and has become a popular site among locals. This restaurant serves traditional Cuban food and cuisine familiar to much of the restaurant’s customers. Their website credits celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Celia Cruz, Frankie Ruiz, and others that have visited their restaurant.
Morro Castle is a small, family-owned restaurant that have been in business since 1966. According to the Miami New Times, “… family-owned Cuban cafeteria Morro Castle has been Hialeah’s source for good, affordable bistec de palomilla, tostones, and moro.”
This restaurant has become a popular restaurant chain in South Florida. Known for their delicious Cuban pizzas, the original Polo Norte opened in Hialeah, before branching out to other locations across Miami. The restaurant offers a diverse menu of Cuban pizzas with different topics, Cuban sandwiches and paninis, and other entrée menus with Cuban flare.
Ibiley Unforms is one of the major uniform retail stores for schools across Miami-Dade public schools. Visiting the Hialeah store in early August, one can find long lines of parents purchasing their children’s uniforms for the upcoming school year. Ibiley Uniforms was founded by a immigrant Cuban family living in Miami after escaping the Castro regime.
One of Hialeah’s most popular stores, the Valsan department store on W 4th Avenue has become a local shopping hub. Their commercials have become a mainstay on Spanish television through their funny commercials and its popular jingle.
Farmacia Cali is a small Colombian pharmacy off of West 60th Street that offers over-the-counter medicines and ailments for customers.
To conclude, Hialeah is a fascinating city in the heart of Miami-Dade County. Often ridiculed and joked about, Hialeah is a working class community made up of Cuban exiles, immigrants, and hard-workers. Many Hialeans are proud of living in their city and wear it as a badge of honor. Despite the city’s faults, there is a special culture within the city as one of the country’s few Hispanic immigrant enclaves.
Census.gov. Hialeah. n.d. Web Site. 15 April 2021.
DataUSA. Hialeah, FL. n.d. Web Site. 20 April 2021.
Herring, Chloe. Miami Herald – Turns out Hialeah is actually the least diverse US city. 21 February 2017. Newspaper. 19 April 2021.
Lipscomb, Jessica. Why Is Hialeah Always Ranked the Worst City for Everything? 16 January 2019. Newspaper. 20 April 2021.
Miami Herald Archives. What did Hialeah used to look like? Here is a peek through the time machine. 4 November 2019. Web Site. 19 April 2021.
Miami New Times. Molina’s Ranch Restaurant. n.d. 23 April 2021.
Molina’s Ranch Restaurant. n.d. 23 April 2021.
Polo Norte. About Us. n.d. Web Site. 23 April 2021.
The City of Hialeah. Milander Park Recreation Center. n.d. Web site. 23 April 2021.
WalletHub. Best & Worst Cities for Recreation. 2 July 2019. Web Site. 20 April 2021.
—. Cities with the Best & Worst Public Transportation. 10 September 2019. Web Site. 19 April 2021.
Wikipedia. Hialeah, FL. n.d. 20 April 2021.