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8620: Haitian Oasis (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
> HAITIAN OASIS
> By Madeline Baró Diaz Miami Bureau
> Little Haiti might look like just another South Florida neighborhood.
> Look closely, however, and you'll see a transplanted version of the
> Haiti many Miami immigrants once called home. Hand-painted signs on
> stores, in Creole and English, illustrate what's inside: drawings of
> carrots, bananas and apples promise a variety of produce in a food
> market, a pair of scissors signals a barber shop and hand-drawn
> Florida Lotto signs point the way to the lottery machine.
> The colorful houses -- in pink and other bright colors -- are painted
> that way on purpose, a reminder of homes back in Haiti. Chickens
> occasionally run through the neighborhood and the yards might look
> untamed and overgrown, but they're actually lush gardens with banana
> trees and other tropical plants from home.
> It's an oasis of Haitian life that some Haitian-Americans are afraid
> will disappear as the area is developed. Although some Little Haiti
> leaders also want to attract money to the area and rid it of crime,
> unemployment and poverty, they want to make sure that Little Haiti
> remains Haitian at its core.
> "We are striving very hard to preserve our heritage," said Jan Mapou,
> owner of Libreri Mapou, a Little Haiti bookstore that is also home to
> Mapou Cultural Center. "Whatever they are planning to do they have to
> keep the Caribbean flavor. This is our identity."
> Little Haiti is actually one of Miami's oldest areas, which got its
> nickname as Haitian immigrants made it their home. Unlike the Little
> Havana section of Miami and its famous Calle Ocho, however, Little
> Haiti is not well known outside of South Florida.
> Local leaders are trying to change that by coming up with ideas for
> marketing Little Haiti's cultural appeal. The city is considering
> granting special cultural status to the community, which could bring
> with it the financial boost the community has long sought.
> For 20 years, Haitian community activist Viter Juste has been
> advocating a tourist corridor through Northeast Second Avenue, which
> runs through the heart of Little Haiti. The tourist corridor would be
> a place to showcase Haitian paintings, arts and crafts, food, and
> other pieces of Haitian culture for sale.
> "When somebody visits as a tourist, they always want to bring back a
> little souvenir," Juste says. "They would like to taste the Haitian
> food, listen to the music."
> Meanwhile, the Haitian American Foundation is planning the Creole
> Market, an open-air market on 79th Street, another of Little Haiti's
> main thoroughfares.
> Vendors there will sell fruits, vegetables, handcrafts, embroidery
> other Caribbean-themed goods.
> "Anything you would find in a Caribbean-type market," said Leonie
> Hermantin, executive director of the Haitian American Foundation.
> The market was open briefly last year, but plans to reopen the market
> this year hit a snag when the project failed to secure city funds for
> construction. The foundation is looking for other sources of funding.
> "If it's done well, it would continue to promote this idea, this
> concept, of Little Haiti being a destination, maintaining the
> Caribbean flavor of this community," Hermantin said.
> A previous effort in Little Haiti, the Caribbean Market, opened in
> 1990s but closed down because of financial problems. Hermantin does
> not think that whether the Creole Market survives or not will affect
> other efforts to market Little Haiti's culture.
> "This is not the end-all," she said. "If it doesn't happen, it
> mean Little Haiti won't be a destination. This is not going to make
> break that concept."
> The city of Miami says it, too, is interested in preserving the local
> culture of Little Haiti.
> "If you look at Miami, we always talk about its diversity or its
> culture, and that's one of the areas we have to celebrate," said
> Gregory Gay, an urban community planner for Miami.
> Like Little Havana, which has been designated a "Latin Quarter"
> district, Little Haiti can also get a specialty designation, Gay
> The designation is basically a marketing tool. It allows the city to
> customize zoning and set design standards to showcase the cultural
> aspects of an area and attract tourists.
> "It's more or less to highlight the cultural diversity in the areas
> which they have settled over the years," he said.
> Gay said the city is gathering ideas from Little Haiti residents on
> how to implement a cultural designation. Those ideas would have to be
> approved by the community and then the city council, he said.
> In recent years there has been a rise in cultural tourism -- people
> who travel to soak up local flavor, Gay said. Miami is in a unique
> position to take advantage of that because it has residents from so
> many different parts of the world.
> "It's almost like Epcot, essentially," Gay said, referring to the
> world pavilions at the Disney theme park.
> Little Haiti is the perfect spot for cultural tourists, Juste says.
> hopes a tourist corridor, if it ever becomes a reality, would be a
> popular spot for millions of tourists visiting South Florida.
> "Since they are reluctant to visit Haiti, we say let us bring Haiti
> them," he said.
> Madeline Baró Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or
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