I’ve taken a few tours given by Dr. Paul George in the past. He is passionate, curious and always has some surprise hints about the neighborhoods that he introduces us to.
This pandemic has forced many of us to stay home and remain safe for well over a year. Now, we were finally given a pass (according to the CDC) to wander outside with or without masks and enjoy South Florida.
The Tower Theatre (1508 SW 8th Street), in Little Havana was the meeting place. Dr. George was delighted to see a group of about 50 anxious pedestrians ready to follow him around the streets of Little Havana. This historic, free, walking tour experience, (one of twelve different Viernes Culturales tours per year), is informative, often surprising, and delightfully friendly. Cell phones ready to snap away, we started at Domino Park, which is adjacent to a small, outdoor tent market.
The now well visited park was started back in 1961 by Rene Janero who had fled Fidel Castro’s revolution. Janero invited some friends from the neighborhood to play dominoes with him. Political exchanges also helped past the time away. The Park was closed down during the pandemic for just over a year.
Jose R. Casanova, JR. R.A., C.G.C, joined the group while we were all watching a display of Cubans rolling cigars. Mr. Casanova was strongly involved in the Urban Planning, Architecture and Interior Design of Calle Ocho.
City Commissioner Joe Carollo along with Sen. Ileana Garcia and Rep. Mario Elvira Salazar reopened the park recently which coincided with the launch of a new mobile CVS COVID vaccination area set up in the park. Dominoes Park receives about 250 tourists a day. A pass is needed to get to a table and play. The Park can cater to about 850 players per day. The city of Miami is also opening additional activities in the area.
The historic Viernes Culturales tour lasted for about an hour as we interwove several blocks east, south, north and back to the Tower Theatre. Although about only half of the guests wore masks, this first walking tour of the year, felt like the beginning of the “NEW” normal. Curious people strolling together, enjoying the surroundings and possibly hoping that the virus is well behind all of us. After Dr. George led us back to the theatre, tour guests separated and sought out dining places along Calle Ocho, ( SW 8th ST., Miami).