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Here's How You Can Celebrate Haitian Heritage Month in Miami
The first Haitian refugees arrived by boat in South Florida in 1963. A few years later, the dictatorship of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier became the catalyst for even more Haitians to make their way to Miami’s shores. Today, Haitian Heritage Month is a staple in the coastal city, celebrated by the significantly sized Haitian community.
The annual celebration is an extension of Haitian Flag Day on May 18, which is a patriotic holiday in Haiti. Last year’s plans were foiled by the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year the community is rebounding with a slew of festivities recognizing the rich history and culture of their heritage. What originally started as a week-long event 20 years ago has now evolved into four weeks of galvanizing the Haitian diaspora.
“The occasion is very well received by the community,” Sandy Dorsainvil, program director of the Little Haiti Cultural Center, told Travel Noire. “Especially the Afro Caribbean community who sees it as an opportunity to highlight the contributions of Haitians and all Caribbean people in the community.”
But the event is not just for those with Haitian lineage. Dorsainvil says that the Little Haiti Cultural Center is considered a tourist destination by the Greater Miami Conventions and Visitors Bureau, making it a popular stop for travelers.
“We find that a lot of tourists visit the cultural center year-round but especially during Haitian Heritage Month. In May we tend to have a very large influx of Haitians living throughout the diaspora who visit Miami for all the festivities.”
In addition to the traditional Haitian Kompa Festival, the center will host Pale Kreyól! or Speak Kreyól! to learn the basics of the language. This class will be held virtually and is ideal for complete beginners or those who need a refresher. Other activities include a brunch and award ceremony, dance workshop, and comedy show. Every Monday Little Haiti Gets Fit brings awareness to multiple health issues plaguing the Haitian and Black communities in general including diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. And no celebration would be complete without some authentic Haitian cuisine prepared by several award-winning celebrity chefs as part of the Creole Culinary Classics Cook-Off.
There’s so much to choose from that it can be overwhelming, but for those who are new to Haitian culture and want an immersive experience, Dorsainvil recommends the weekly market days.
“Of all of our events, I believe the event that is the most inclusive of all things Haitian would be the Caribbean Market Days. Caribbean Market Days happen each Saturday at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex here in the Caribbean Marketplace. It is a series of activities from live music bands, dance lessons, traditional folklore dance lessons, art classes, guided tours of the complex, and an art exhibit. The marketplace also houses vendors that sell products from the Caribbean. Most importantly, our main sponsor Barbancourt keeps the rum punch flowing all day.”
COVID-19 safety protocols will be in full effect. Capacity for each event is limited and advance RSVP is required even for free events. Handwashing stations and six-foot distancing is also required at all events. The festivities will take place in the Little Haiti Cultural Center’s open-air spaces.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit the site.