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Making Miami's Little Haiti Neighborhood Great Again

2018-04-16

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[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.
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  • Farther down the sidewalk, a group of girls and women in traditional Creole clothing work on dance moves.
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  • Often there are artists busy creating paintings, and performances by musicians.
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  • Today many locals are concerned about efforts to expand and develop parts of the colorful neighborhood.
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  • 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.
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  • Born in St. Louis du Nord, Haiti, Duroseau immigrated to the United States at age four.
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  • He is now involved with marketing for the Caribbean Marketplace on social media.
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  • "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.
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  • “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.
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  • Some land developers say the area is desirable because of it sits on higher ground overlooking other parts of Miami.
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  • This makes the land less susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels.
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  • In 2016, rental prices on office space climbed as much as 50 percent.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • "…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.
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  • 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.
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  • ​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.
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