With the steep rise of rents and the closure of cultural touchstones like botanicas, some Haitian immigrants don’t feel at home in their own neighborhood.
From 2014 until this past April, I lived on Northwest Second Avenue in Miami, Florida’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Migrants from Haiti began arriving here in large numbers in the late 80s, following the collapse of the Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorship. For many, the weather and ambiance of Miami seemed like a natural transition.
My studio was across the street from the Zubi Market, a small bodega that stayed open during Hurricane Irma after all the major chain drugstores and groceries had closed. I lived down the street from little Caribbean spots like Clives Cafe, a Jamaican eatery famous for its meat and veggie patties, and Chef Creole, which attracts tourists looking to try Haitian cuisine like griot and plantains for the first time. I used to love to walk down Second Avenue and see women selling dresses off of trees or watch people run after the jitney, a small van that costs $1.50 and drives all through the main streets of the area. But my favorite thing to do in Little Haiti was just hang out on my balcony and listen to the sounds of Kompa music blasting from the loudspeakers outside of the neighborhood’s botanicas, which are spiritual stores known for selling potions, religious statues, and alternative medicine. Botanicas are especially popular among devotees of Vodou, Brujería, and Santería faiths.