Connecting with My Roots in Little Havana

Connecting with My Roots in Little Havana

Kelly Saks Enjoys Summer at Your Rhythm in Miami.


This summer I partnered with Orgullosa and Gillette Venus to take an adventure in my own backyard. Summertime in Miami is for the locals, and what better time than our “slow season” to explore like a tourist? As an Orgullosa Latina, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to invite my friend Andrea (who is Ecuadorian) to join me on a walking tour of historic Little Havana.



Although I wasn’t born in Cuba like my parents, I grew up immersed in the culture and traditions and fostered a strong sense of Cuban pride. Twice I represented my parents’ native country on the international stage as Miss Cuba, in 2010 and 2011. When asked if I’m American, I always specify that I’m Cuban-American — not because I’m not proud to be American, but because for me, being Cuban represents resilience and strength. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents risked it all to bring their families to the U.S., where I now have the privilege of living. Growing up in Miami made it easy for me to connect with my heritage because the DNA of the Magic City is largely made up of the flavors and customs of the enigmatic Caribbean island, mostly thanks to the great population of Cuban exiles like my abuelos.

On a scale of 1-10, South Florida summers clock-in at scorching. That means time to break out the short-shorts and my Venus + Olay razor for silky smooth skin. Nothing looks better with bare legs than a pair of wedges, so I took my favorite pair along on our tour, too.



First stop: The Bay of Pigs Memorial on historic Calle Ocho. We met our tour guide, who was actually from Brazil, and I ended up sharing my personal stories and Cuban experience with the other ladies joining us for the morning. (Tip: Pack sunscreen & apply before arriving at the Memorial. You’ll be outdoors for much of the tour.)

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Next we had a juice break at a Little Havana landmark, Los Pinareños Fruteria, an open-air fruit market that has been a Little Havana staple since the 1960s and is named for Pinar del Rio, the city in Cuba where my family hails from. There’s nothing I love more than freshly squeezed (and really pulpy) orange juice, and Los Pinareños does it right! Try it mixed with pineapple for a refreshing tropical twist.



Sitting at Los Pinareños was like a flashback to my childhood, everything from the smell of fresh mangos wafting through the air, to the vintage cafecito machine, brightly colored plastic tablecloths and the roaming roosters. According to reviews, “[Los Pinarenos] is about as close to a Cuban experience [as] you will get without going to Cuba.”

We spent the rest of the 3-hour trip visiting different cultural landmarks and businesses on Calle Ocho, including a Cuban cigar maker, art gallery, rum bar, bakery and the famous Domino Park. No Little Havana tour would be complete without enjoying authentic Cuban food, so in good form the afternoon ended at a local restaurant. We enjoyed some of the classics, including ropa vieja (shredded beef), tostones, moros y platanitos, ensalada de tomate (tomato salad), and tortilla española (spanish omlette - for the vegetarians like me). It was like a taste from my abuela’s kitchen! After a full morning of walking it was well-deserved comfort food.

Make sure to check out some summer ideas in your city, and then show us how you celebrate verano a tu ritmo.

Kelly Saks juggles a career in real estate while keeping busy as one of Miami's top fashion influencers with her fashion blog KellysKlosetBlog.com.


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