Little Haiti

  • Welcome to Little Haiti mural
  • resident on porch feeding chickens
  • Little Haiti Cultural Complex

North of Overtown and adjacent to Liberty City lies Little Haiti. The district’s name reflects the influence of Haitian migration on the neighborhood. The brutal U.S.-supported dictatorships of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier accelerated Haitian emigration between the 1960s and 1980s. Exiled professionals headed the initial wave, principally to the U.S., Canada, and Europe, followed by the middle and working classes and eventually by poor “Boat people” to South Florida and the Bahamas. Since then, Haitian immigrants and their offspring have increasingly concentrated in South Florida. As affluent Haitians settled throughout the suburbs and established businesses across the region, Miami’s north-of-downtown districts—which interspersed deteriorated neighborhoods with light industrial and warehouse-distribution activities—became the diaspora’s residential and cultural anchor. Community-building efforts in this setting transformed the Buena Vista and Lemon City areas into an informal “Little Haiti.”

By the turn of the new century, though, the consolidation of the area’s Haitian American institutions and political know-how launched campaigns addressing problems of Haiti, its refugees, and its diaspora. Arguably the culminating achievement of such campaigns has been 2016’s success in convincing the City of Miami to officially rename the Lemon City district as “Little Haiti.” The official renaming relinquished a large swath of southern territory to the fast-encroaching upscale Design District; and, undeterred by the renaming, the acquisition of speculative properties in Little Haiti—ranging from small-scale intrusions to mega-corporate projects—has intensified since then. As Jan Mapou, owner of Little Haiti’s iconic bookstore, acknowledged in the midst of celebration: “Maybe in the next five to ten years, we’ll be invaded by the Design District. There’s nothing we can do. These people, they’ve got money, big money. We cannot stop them”[1].

[1] Sandler, Nathaniel. 2016. “Developers, Historians, and Activists War Over the Future of Little Haiti,” The Miami New Times, July 26, Accessible online