Visiting Little Havana in Miami

Miami is about an hour away from me, and I hate driving down because there is always horrible traffic, but once I get there, I do enjoy certain neighborhoods. A few days ago, I spent the day in Little Havana and had a blast!

I started off with a “Cafecito” and a cigar. This neighborhood is full of coffee shops with a window to the street where you can order and get your coffee right on the sidewalk. There are also a handful of cigar factories, shops, and lounges where you can sit and enjoy a cigar while you chat. I stopped at El Titan de Bronze for some cigars. Otherwise, I was very restrained and did not splurge buying Panama hats, guayabera shirts, etc. etc.

For lunch I had a frita at the “El Rey de las fritas”. A frita is a Cuban hamburger made out of ground meat and ground chorizo sausage, topped with string fries. If you have never had one, let me tell you, they are divine. This specific restaurant is a time machine back to the 50s and 60s.

I also did a video for Tonxo Tours, my “side gig” which specializes in tours of Spain, but hey, you have to keep the Insta crowd happy and waiting for more!

In the afternoon I checked out some top-level domino games at a little park made ex-profeso for domino, called, you guessed it Domino Park!

The fun of Little Havana is just in soaking it in, walking around, enjoying the sounds and smells. Although you are in the massive city of Miami, for a few blocks, you might as well be in old Havana, with chickens and roosters running around in the neighbors’ yards!

Conferences

This Spring I had the opportunity to present at a conference other than our own Carolina Conference on Romance Literatures. I participated at the University of Maryland’s “Perspectives on Power” conference. I had a nice drive to Maryland, although I always manage to get lost around the DC area. I took a day off to visit Washington, since I had not been there since the late ’70s (yikes!). I walked to the metro in College Park into downtown and had a lovely day visiting DC. I popped my head in at the Spanish consulate for some paperwork, had a lovely coffee, visited the Vietnam Veterans memorial which I had never seen (that is how long since I had been to DC), bumped into an old Buckingham Browne and Nichols student and spent the rest of the day at the National Gallery, which is in one word: extraordinary. Although it was rainy and gray all morning, by the afternoon the sky had cleared and I managed to enjoy a lovely sandwich outdoors.

The next day I presented at the beautiful U of Maryland, where the great Spanish writer Juan Ramón Jimenez taught during his exile. For my presentation, as usual, I focused on my man Padre Isla and his keen use of power in his texts. The grad students and other participants were all very nice, with a large contingent of students who had flown in from China for the conference, impressive.

And with that I drove back to old North Carolina. Of course with the obligatory traffic jam exiting DC on 95 South…

I also presented at our Carolina Conference and I again spoke about Isla, this time about his cunning use of imagery. Fascinating stuff. I had the privilege of presenting with legendary prof. Joaquín Rodriguez-Barbera from Sam Houston University in Texas. The conference is a great opportunity to bond with the department colleagues and faculty, and to meet interesting people from all over.

Every year the graduate students that organize the conference work hard with the faculty to bring in top-level keynote speakers. This year we had Cuban author and academic Gustavo Pérez Firmat. He gave awesome back to back presentations to cover his two literary fronts as author and academic. I was mesmerized by his intelligence, sharpness, and humor. When after his presentations I went over to thank him, we figured out that he reads this blog. His words were something like, “I was trying to figure out who this half catholic, half crazy guy was!” Needless to say I was flattered by his accurate description and by the fact that he knew of AntonioyRocinante.

The conference has two key social moments: The party hosted by Prof. Domínguez in his lovely home. Every year Joaquín is put in charge of making a serious paella, this year we sadly celebrated Joaquin’s last paella, as he is apparently throwing in the apron. The Domínguezs are even generous enough to let me smoke a cigar in the garden – which apparently reminds Prof. Domínguez of his childhood in Cuba.

The other key event is the closing banquet. Celebrated at the lovely Weathervane restaurant it is the nicest social event of the year with great food, drink and conversation. Every year prospective students come and they have a chance to let us convince them of how great our program is.