Back then you only stopped in this area if you had business there -- which was rare -- or if someone invited you; also rare, or for a sporting event. One of the barriers to this area is that just about all of the signage, billboards included, is written en espanol which translates to me -- stay out! It is a crying shame because the shops there will definitely experience a sharp increase in business if they post in English as well because most native (born here) Americans can only speak a lazy version of the Queen’s English.
I must admit that I was thoroughly elated when I learned that our guide was Miami history guru Dr. Paul S. George who spoke perfect English. The scheduled tour time was from 7 PM to 8:30 PM; I attended in February which means it was dark (no daylight) from the start which was in front of the old movie theater (Tower) off the famous South West 8th Street a.k.a. Calle Ocho (hot eight). Another nicety of this tour is that it was gratis (free). You just have to contact them ahead of time to reserve your spot.
We began our tour with a brief background narrative by Dr. George who explained that 8th Street was an undeveloped dirt road that was part of farm land and the area north was known as Riverside (where Cuban immigrants first settled starting in the 1950’s). The Tower Theater, he said, was completed in 1926 (during the Vaudeville era and year of the Miami Hurricane) and was not in operation from 1984 until 2000 (16 years). Today it is home to the Miami International Film Festival which recently came under fire this year (2017) for not recognizing the Academy-Award winning movie Moonlight; based on the true story of a gay Black male Miami native growing up in the Liberty Square projects affectionately known in the hood as the Poke N Beans. That area will be a stop on the upcoming QCT Miami Black Heritage Tour presented by Queen City Tours and Travel
Next we headed to Baker’s Drive Inn which opened in the 1940’s and the now famous city-owned Domino Park that is open 9 AM - 6PM seven days a week according to our guide. Can you guess why it is called Domino Park? They have a mural of some very interesting-looking men painted on the wall that should be worthy of a closer inspection. Dr. George then pointed out the names of some famous and some well-known Latinos that are inscribed into the sidewalk bricks known as the Walkway of Stars which began in 1989. I spotted the one that listed Sammy Sosa (Chicago Cubs) whose record-breaking pro baseball home run derby with Mark McGwire (St. Louis Cardinals) in 1998 is now mired in controversy due to doping rumors.