A Night in Little Havana

By Lara Bradley, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

What better way to start off a Spring Break trip to Miami than some cultural immersion in the heart of the city’s Cuban community, Little Havana. 

We only booked one night in Little Havana and we spent most of our afternoon recovering from our early morning flight from Denver, so we decided to make the most of our evening in the area. Instead of calling an Uber, we decided to walk through the neighbourhood to our fist destination: a cute little dive bar called “Thank You Miami”. 

If I’m honest, this place looks absolutely terrifying from the outside. It’s a tiny box on the corner of a residential street, covered in corrugated iron with darkened windows. However, the vibe inside was totally different- the bar was actually (somehow) quite big, and the staff were so friendly and welcoming. We were told they had video games and board games for us to play and in an our or so, their weekly karaoke night would start. Everything on the menu was cheap and, as a bonus, the chef let us know that he was “90% sure” he had a concussion, so the food would be extra nice. 

Only one of our group ended up taking part in the karaoke night, singing a beautiful duet of “Don’t You Want Me” with the DJ Stefanja. However, we had George Micheal, Tupac and Slipknot sung to us over the course of the evening too, and I managed to crush my friend in battleships. 

We were planning to head home from here, but in a spontaneous last minute descision, we decided to head to one of Little Havanas most famous bars, the Ball and Chain. This place has an amazing history, opening up as a saloon in the 30s before its expansion into a live music venue and nightclub in the 50s. The venue became a refuge for black musicians, hosting performances for the likes of Billie Holiday and Count Basie. Today, the bar still hosts live music, and it happened to be that the night we visited was their salsero night. 

The moment we walked in the door we were swept onto the dance floor. After some timid boogying, one by one we were taken by dancers who tried to teach us proper salsa. Many of them spoke little to no English and had been visiting the bar for years, but were so kind and eager to teach us. We spent hours dancing the night away until the bar got so humid that we ran out of air. We stumbled out, all very sweaty, and returned home to our airbnb and passed out until morning. 

Even though it was the first night of a very… memorable… trip, I think our night out in Little Havana was one of the funnest (and most surprising) of the trip. If anyone ever makes it to Miami, I strongly recommend going outside of the main strip and exploring some funky neighbourhoods 

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