By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ | Associated Press
Travel guides list Little Havana as the heart of the Cuban exile community, the symbolic hub of opposition to Fidel Castro and a must-see neighborhood for its galleries, cigar shops and espresso stands.
But with so much of its identity steeped in anti-Castro activism, one question lingers: Can this Miami enclave survive the eventual death of the very man whose existence helped define it.
A handful of shopkeepers, artists and city officials are betting it can. Over the last eight years, they have slowly staged a renaissance in a neighborhood once awash in “Miami Vice” crime.
“I don’t have a crystal ball of what will happen when Fidel and Raul Castro go, but I believe the exchange will only increase,” said painter and former Cuban political prisoner Augustin Gainza, one of the first artists to return to the neighborhood in 2000. “After Fidel there will be Havana — and Havana del Norte,” or Northern Havana.
The neighborhood that became Little Havana wasn’t always a slice of the Caribbean. It was a thriving Jewish community in the 1930s, until the Jews began moving to the suburbs and the beach. In 1959, Castro and his rebels ousted Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and established a communist government. Cuban exiles poured in.
Pablo Canton was among them. His family settled in the area in 1961 when he was a teen. But like the Jews before them, Canton and other Cubans moved to the suburbs in the 1970s and ‘80s as their families and income grew.
——————————————Havana Journal Advertisements——————————————-