[00:00.00]Haitians are worried about changes taking place in the Little Haiti area of Miami, Florida.
[00:09.32]Little Haiti is considered “the cultural heart of the Haitian diaspora” in the United States.
[00:17.98]Many Haitians fled from their homeland and sailed to the U.S. mainland in the 1980s.
[00:25.58]Some of them established the Little Haiti neighborhood in Florida’s largest city.
[00:32.10]Today the energetic neighborhood is filled with Haitian-owned businesses, including restaurants and stores selling works of art.
[00:43.52]On Saturdays, music from Haiti and other Caribbean countries fills the air outside Little Haiti’s Caribbean Marketplace.
[00:54.89]People buy and enjoy tasty treats from local eateries.
[00:59.96]Farther down the sidewalk, a group of girls and women in traditional Creole clothing work on dance moves.
[01:08.70]Often there are artists busy creating paintings, and performances by musicians.
[01:16.44]Today many locals are concerned about efforts to expand and develop parts of the colorful neighborhood.
[01:25.76]They note how wealthy individuals seem to be buying up property and displacing poor people.
[01:34.83]They fear that this gentrification will lead to Haitian culture and people disappearing from the area.
[01:43.59]"Because of gentrification - it's the only thing that we have so we're trying to keep this going, said Hoppy Duroseau, who lives in Little Haiti.
[01:56.10]Born in St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, Duroseau immigrated to the United States at age four.
[02:03.77]He is now involved with marketing for the Caribbean Marketplace on social media.
[02:10.99]"We want to keep it busy all the time because if not - then we'll lose this place and we'll no longer have Little Haiti,” he said.
[02:21.08]“Little Haiti is the only one in the world. So we need to keep this."
[02:27.32]To slow these changes, some Haitians hope to see the Caribbean Marketplace operate seven days a week.
[02:36.18]They believe this would help support the community economically.
[02:41.34]Over the years, the Little Haiti neighborhood has become popular with non-Haitians.
[02:48.89]Some land developers say the area is desirable because of it sits on higher ground overlooking other parts of Miami.
[02:58.58]This makes the land less susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels.
[03:04.70]In 2016, rental prices on office space climbed as much as 50 percent.
[03:12.92]Many Haitian-owned businesses were forced to close because of the rising costs.
[03:19.12]A local woman named Myrlande sells food at the Caribbean Marketplace.
[03:25.40]She told VOA she is among the Haitians directly affected by gentrification.
[03:32.26]"It's a dead zone; nothing is going on. Haitians have pretty much left the neighborhood," she said.
[03:40.79]"I - myself had a business in the neighborhood and the rent went up so high that I was forced to leave…
[03:49.84]That is why we've lost almost all the Haitian-owned businesses in the community.
[03:56.62]That's why we are trying to have them open the Caribbean Marketplace every day so we can have a place to call home…"
[04:05.85]David C. Brown wrote a book called The History of Little Haiti: Featuring Its Pioneers.
[04:12.86]He says the area is special because of the values and strength of the Haitians who moved there.
[04:20.05]"…Those values that I see so clearly that shone through in the Haitian spirit are the values of family, education and work ethic,” he added.
[04:31.42]“Those are the three values that have helped to raise the bar of this immigrant community."
[04:37.80]The marketplace is home to many different vendors who each add their own personality to the neighborhood.
[04:45.53]Roe Michel sells t-shirts and other clothing with colorful printed images.
[04:52.94]Michel immigrated to the United States from Haiti at the age of two with his parents.
[04:59.94]He feels Haitians have the ability to survive anything.
[05:05.01]Michel shows this sense of pride through the clothes he sells.
[05:11.00]His products are called Vintage 1804.
[05:15.11]The name is based, in part, on the year Haitian slaves declared their independence from France and became the first free black nation in the Western Hemisphere.
[05:27.34]One of his T-shirts shows heroes of the war for independence, such as Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Toussaint Louverture, and Alexandre Petion.
[05:41.55]Often there are artists painting for the public and live music concerts.
[05:47.68]Even with the difficulties of gentrification, Haitians like Myrlande hope the marketplace can continue to provide support to the community.
[05:59.59]"Business today was not bad at all, but I just wish we could have the same amount of people every Saturday," Myrlande said.
[06:09.74]"Although I didn't make a lot of money today, I'm satisfied, I'm happy."
[06:15.72]I’m Phil Dierking.