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by Jeanne Brei

Just walking in South Beach between 10th and 15th streets, you’ll see the rise of Art Deco architecture, the influence of the mob and Hollywood, and the transformation of Miami’s swampland to a tropical paradise. There’s the Versace mansion and Art Deco classics such as The Carlyle Hotel, The Tudor hotel, the 11th Street Diner and the Wolfsonian. Some of these buildings were backdrops for the Miami Vice scenes, and movies like The Birdcage with Robin Williams. Legend has it Capone ran his gambling syndicate from the second floor of a small hotel also used in The Specalist, a film starring Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone.

If you venture to Little Havana to experience the best in Cuban food, play dominos at Domino Park or to go salsa dancing, the historical district stretch of Calle Ocho from SW 12th to 16th Avenues is particularly vibrant, the chimneys and porch piers of single-family bungalows made of native coral limestone, the aroma of tobacco wafting from cigar shops, Cuban music coming from the open doors of record stores and lively Cuban bars, Ball & Chain, the historic jazz club that has been restored into one of the best bars in Miami, hosts more than 80 hours a week of free concerts in its back patio bandshell–which is constructed to look like half a cut-open pineapple.

To the north, you can sample Little Haiti’s island heritage at the Caribbean Marketplace, an award-winning, brilliantly colored building inspired by the Iron Marketplace of Port-au-Prince. The marketplace is filled with shops that offer Caribbean arts and crafts, African-inspired clothing and exotic ice creams and juices.

Miami also has a strong Jewish community and is home to one of the world’s largest Holocaust survivor populations as  well as the inspiring Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach.

Another site with deep historical roots is the Miccosukee Indian Village. Thirty miles west of Miami, the bustle of the city yields to the Everglades, where native Miccosukee Indians share their heritage with visitors by making and selling crafts, relating folklore tales, wrestling alligators and conducting airboat tours of the delicate Everglades ecosystem.

For more info, visit www.ballandchainmiami.com; www.littlehaiticulturalcenter.com ; www.holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org;  www.miccosukee.com/indian-village/.  

This story originally appeared in the September/October issue of Exhibit City News, p. 84. For more pictures and original layout, visit http://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecnflipbook_septemberoctober_2018_o?e=16962537/64174552