MiAmi: Two Countries, One City Essay#1

MiAmi: Two Countries, One City Essay#1

Haiti and Cuba: Twin Heartbeats of Miami was inspired by Carl Juste’s photojournalism in Cuba and Haiti, and his experience growing up in Miami in the Haitian and Cuban diaspora communities. Over a course of six months Miami Book Fair Programs Director Lissette Mendez partnered with Iris PhotoCollective founder, Carl Juste to bring together students, MiAmi Fellows, from Miami Dade College’s Honor College to explore the culture of Haiti and Cuba in Miami. Veteran photojournalists – Juste, and C.W. Griffin, along with author Anjanette Delgado, spent time in Little Haiti and Little Havana, creating photographs and writing essays, poems, and memoirs that connected the experiences, values, and nuances of both exile communities.

Here is an excerpt from one of the essays showcased in Haiti and Cuba: Twin Heartbeats of Miami written by MiAmi Fellow by Leslie Lopez:

“Miami has been hit with something, the symptoms those of a fiery Caribbean fever. Once, a long time ago, two lively little countries blew puffs of their fragrant culture onto the feet of an emerging Floridian city, and it was never the same again.

Haiti and Cuba, though located in different places on a map, can be found side by side in our Miami. The two cultures rarely coinciding on the same block, maybe only at a market, an art gallery, or a concert, but always eyeing each other, like the star-crossed siblings of one motherland.

Haiti, with its radiance and bountiful pantry full of bright-eyed “renmen” is more than equal to Cuba’s hungry corazón. But though the pieces of each country would fit together seamlessly in the jigsaw puzzle that is Miami, their children have yet to truely embrace their shared history.

Though I was born in Cuba, I never thought too much about my own nationality.  And Haiti was, in my mind, just Creole dishes, voodoo doctors, and after the earthquake of 2010, the very image of tragedy.

I’d been lacking information about these jewels of the Caribbean and I felt as immune to the Haitian paintings I walked by at the cultural fairs, as I was to the images of Cuban couples, dancing in the moonlight.”

Leslie Lopez
2015 MiAmi Fellow

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