The National Trust for Historic Preservation added Miami’s Little Havana Neighborhood to its list of “National Treasures," which contains more than 75 buildings, neighborhoods and natural landscapes threatened by development or neglect.
The only other treasure from Florida is another Miami landmark, the Miami Marine Stadium.
Though Little Havana has expanded to include many groups besides Cuban-Americans, it remains the historic heart of Miami’s Cuban community. When President Obama announced the end of the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy granting Cubans an easier path to U.S. residency, Cuban-Americans and journalists flocked to Versailles, the famous Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho, to sip cafecitos and talk about it.
The announcement that the historic heart of Miami’s Cuban community will join the "national treasures" list comes days after the city of Miami scrapped a zoning proposal opponents argued would displace working-class and immigrant residents.
Instead, after the announcement, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado’s office says it will work with the National Trust and its local partners to encourage development in the neighborhood that maintains its historic character.
“For the national trust to get involved in Little Havana, that should be an honor for the city of Miami and for Little Havana,” Regalado told the Miami Herald. “It brings a lot of hopes and a lot of attention, national attention.”
Christine Rupp, the executive director of Dade Heritage Trust, worked closely with the National Trust to get Little Havana onto the "national treasures" list. She says she hopes it will encourage people new to the neighborhood to engage more with its history, and drive tourists to venture beyond Calle Ocho.
“From my perspective, this can serve as a model to other urban neighborhoods in Miami and across the country who may be losing their sense of character,” Rupp says. “It’s a great example of how a historic, diverse urban neighborhood evolves in a manner that is thoughtful and takes into consideration the needs of working class people.”