Spain 2020 Ineffable Miami: Hialeah “The City of Progress” by Juliette Camejo

Student Biography

Photo by Samantha Morin (CC by 4.0)

Juliette Camejo is a 3rd year Senior at the Honors College of Florida International University. She graduates Fall 2020 with a double major in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies, and a minor in Psychology. Juliette is on the pre-med track and hopes she one day becomes a physician.

Born in Costa Rica, but raised in Hialeah, Fl., Juliette is extremely excited to learn deeply about the city where she has thrived and grown up in.

Geography

Map Retrieved from Google Maps

The city of Hialeah is located at 25°51′38″N 80°17′38″W. According to the World Population Review, Hialeah spans over a total of 22.82 square miles. Of these square miles, 21.48 is land and the other 1.34 is water. It is surrounded by areas like Miami Lakes, Opa-locka, West Little River, and Miami Springs. The city is one of the most popular commercial centers in the county. Aside from national retailers like Target and Best Buy, it is also home to many mom-and-pop shops. Unlike predominantly green areas such as Homestead, Hialeah is clearly home to many businesses. Still, in case you do need to see more grass, there is Amelia Earhart Park. This is a 515 acre park with a total of five lakes. They even added in a water sports recreational center in one of the lakes present. There are other water parks located around the city, like Bucky Dent Water Park and Milander Aquatic Center.

History

Obtained from City of Hialeah

The name Hialeah translates to “high prairie,” which referred to the beautiful acres of green plains that covered the city. James Bright incorporated Hialeah into the development of Miami in 1921. Within 10 days he sold over a million dollars’ worth of land, building his own property on what is now Hialeah Drive. G.R. Milliard, Hialeah’s first resident, built his home near Okeechobee Road, where he handled multiple businesses. Out of his home he operated a post office, general store, real estate office, car repair shop, and a headquarter for bus lines throughout Miami. Within two years of settling, Hialeah had over 40 families present, with the addition of a dog track and race-course. While the rest of Miami was known as “Winter Wonderland,” Hialeah was a town where work could be found. At first, Hialeah was busy with workers who would buy inexpensive amounts of land and station tents/makeshift homes. In September of 1926, a hurricane hit Hialeah, destroying a majority of the city’s progress. It wasn’t until after World War II that Hialeah was finally able to recuperate. It is said that Hialeah is the only American Industrial city that continues to grow, and is therefore known as the “City of Progress” to many.

Demographics

Obtained from World Population Review

Hialeah is located in South Florida and is currently the sixth-largest city in the state. It’s a part of Miami-Dade County and has a population of 238,942 residents. The city is about 22 square miles and has a population density of 10,972 residents per square mile. This population density is 3,637 percent higher than the average in Florida. Hialeah’s population is about 74 percent Cuban, with a total of 95 percent of the entire population being Hispanic. In 2016, 96 percent of residents claimed to speak Spanish, while the rest only spoke English. The racial composition of our residents is 92 percent white. The median age for residents is 45 and 35 percent of residents are high school graduates. The average person makes about 24,000 a year, with Native Americans being the poorest. This is because out of the 54 Native American residents, 31 were reported being in poverty in 2018. Whereas with Hispanics, 53,871 residents of the 227,255 were reported as poor. 

Resident Cindy Hernandez

Cindy Hernandez is a local in Hialeah, whose parents first moved here before she was even born. Her family is from Honduras and El Salvador, so she grows up in a typical Hispanic household. Cindy lives with her parents, her dog Tyson, and her grandparents. She is currently attending Broward College of Nursing and will be graduating in May of 2020.

Photo by Juliette Camejo (CC by 4.0)

How long have you lived here? I have lived here my whole life. My current house is actually the one I’ve grown up in. My elementary/middle school is only a block away. As much as I love going to Downtown, I don’t think I see myself moving out of Hialeah any time soon.

Favorite local spot? I love taking my best friend to Restaurante Delicias La Cabana. They serve the best pupusas in Hialeah. Don’t forget to try the horchata too! We love to talk over El Salvadorian food and the servers there are extra sweet. It’s a hole in the wall restaurant by Westland Mall.

One favorite memory that happened in Hialeah? Getting out of school and walking to Westland Mall are my favorite memories. My friends and I could spend all day window shopping, since we didn’t work. The little money we did have we would spend in the food courts.

Landmarks

Obtained from Digital Common Wealth

Hialeah Park Racetrack: Developed in 1921 by James Bright, the Hialeah Park Racetrack is one of the oldest recreational areas created in Florida. It helped contribute to South Florida’s image as “Winter Wonderland” and brought popularity to our region. It’s also a sanctuary for the pink flocks of flamingos that reside in the park. America’s first greyhound racing track was opened here in 1922, developed by Owen Smith, the inventor of the Inanimate Hare Conveyor. This device is used to allow dog racing on a circular track.

Rincon de San Lazaro Church: At the beginning of the 70’s, a group of Cuban’s arrived in Hialeah not only in search of freedom, but a place of worship for San Lazaro. What began as a small office grew into one of the most popular churches in South Florida. The Rincon de San Lazaro is a popular figure in Cuban culture, tying its roots to Christian beliefs. He is most revered for the miracles in illnesses that his worshippers experience.

Monument Park and Museum: Cuban Culture in Exile Heritage Park has been dubbed Monument Park by many locals. This is due to the outdoor museum that displays large monuments and plaques dedicated to those Cubans who sought freedom in Florida. The area is gated and open for visitors from dawn until dusk.

Green

Amelia Earhart Park

Amelia Earhart Park is a 515 Acre park located in East Hialeah. It was developed on land that used to be from the Naval Air Station Miami. Eventually, the flight facilities portion of the land became Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, while the other half was reserved for a park. The park obtained its name from famed female pilot Amelia Earhart, who took her last trip in 1937 leaving from Hialeah. The park is open daily and features five lakes, extensive water sports, a petting zoo, a skate park, mountain bike trails, and a 5-acre dog park.

Obtained from City of Hialeah

Other Parks

Obtained from City of Hialeah

Hialeah has many “passive” parks, or areas where people can simply gaze and stroll. Garden of the Arts is my favorite one, where nature and local artists meet. The garden even has an amphitheater in case you fall in love with the area and would like to host an event. A more famous park is the Don Quijote Plaza, where our most famous sculpture is located. As a tribute to Don Quijote, the City of Hialeah placed a 28-foot statue right off the Palmetto Expressway. If you ever want to comfortably look at it, you can always take a seat at one of the benches nearby.

Transportation

Obtained from Political Cortadito Blog

The Hialeah Transit System currently has two routes available, the Marlin route and the Flamingo route. It runs until 7:30 at night and starts up again at 6 in the morning on weekdays. The Hialeah Market is also a part of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority. If you’re looking for a lift to the airport, this may help you. Many people utilize this train when trying to commute to farther distances, such as West Palm Beach. There is also the Metrorail station located in Hialeah. This system saves residents from enduring the morning traffic to Downtown Miami. Aside from these modes of transportation, many others rely on their own cars. In a new age of Uber and Lyft, residents will lean on these apps in case they don’t have a car themselves. Hialeah actually had the slogan “All Ways Lead to Hialeah” in the beginning. Little did they know that Hialeah would become an access point to every major route in South Florida. Although, it’s still refreshing to see people riding their bicycles around the city with groceries in the front basket. It’s common for these bike riders to be elderly, where exercise and a trip to the supermarket can be done simultaneously.

Food

Morro Castle: Since opening in 1966, Morro Castle has served as one of the best Cuban cafeterias in all of Hialeah. The owner, Leo Villalba, takes pride in making all the food from scratch. The restaurant goes as far as making their own shoestring fries for their Frita Cubana. I love to pair my favorite meal with fried plantains and a cold Malta.

Obtained from Vicky Bakery

Vicky Bakery: In 1972 Antonio and Gelasia bought a small bakery in Hialeah, selling guava pastelitos. The recipe came from Cuba, where the couple had previously worked in another well-known bakery. Today, the family owns 15 other locations in South Florida. There’s no better place to grab a $1 coffee and baked goods. Just like our city of progress, the Cao family has big plans for their business, which will eventually expand into a national franchise. 

Mangu Cafe Restaurant: If you want a different style of Latin food, this is a savory spot. This family-owned, Dominican restaurant makes some of the best mangu in Hialeah. The owner is very concerned with how your food is and will always provide excellent service. Who could go wrong with a classic meal of meats and queso frito?

Business

Although home to many chains, Hialeah is a pub for family owned, local businesses.

Obtained from Reddit

Major League Tattoos: Opening up in 2007, Major League Tattoos has built an incredible portfolio of beautiful art. This five star shop caters all people who love everything from watercolor tattoos to dermal piercings. I’ve even had the luxury of getting my piercings done there alongside friends. The best part? It’s located right by the heart of Hialeah, 49th street.

Aardvark Animal Clinic: One of my favorite things to go to is actually my dog’s appointments. Aardvark Animal Clinic is home to the best veterinary staff I’ve come across. They pay close attention to my pets, remembering small details at later appointments. My dogs are rarely nervous in their care and get excited to see everyone. I don’t know what I love more, great customer service or a business full of animals.

JJ Flowers Hialeah Flower Shop: JJ Flowers is one of the best wholesale flower vendors in South Florida. Thankfully for us Hialeah residents, the flower shop is located right near Okeechobee. I’ve ordered many floral arrangements for all types of occasions, including Mother’s Day. This particular day is special because JJ Flowers makes arrangements my mom will continue to talk about for weeks.

Summary

The city of Hialeah is known for its strides towards everlasting progress. Our slogan “The City of Progress” is reminiscent of the efforts of early pioneers who helped build our city from nothing. As a longtime Hialeah resident, I have a special appreciation for the neighborhood I’ve grown up in. That’s why I believe that although many things work, like the fair competition between local businesses and national franchises, there is still room for improvement. For example, our transportation system needs more work regarding the drivers themselves. In 2013, Hialeah was voted by All State Insurance as the 5th worst city of drivers. Since our commercial business is so popular, you may find yourself on busy roads at all hours of the day. The chances of reckless drivers increase with this, along with the amount of accidents that happen as a result.

Another step towards progress could be a community project where residents can make an effort together. Many businesses and homes have begun looking run down, which is due to lack of time and years of exposure. Locals can’t be blamed for focusing on work, considering the average median household income reported in recent years has only been $31,000. When I was in high school, I completed over hundreds of hours of community service. Many clubs I participated in required that I attend community events and a majority of the time, these events couldn’t be used towards more than one club. If Hialeah could organize a weekly/monthly event where high schoolers could restore the community back to its original beauty, while accumulating their own hours for school, it would be a win-win situation for everyone.

Citations

“About.” Major League Tattoos, http://www.majorleaguetattoos.com/about.

“About Us.” Rincón De San Lázaro, rincondesanlazaro.org/en/about-us/.

Admin. “JJ Flowers .” JJ Flowers Online , jjflowersonline.com/.

Amelia Earhart Park” Amelia Earhart Park | Hialeah, FL, http://www.hialeahfl.gov/AmeliaEarhartPark

“Don Quijote Plaza.” Don Quijote Plaza | Hialeah, FL, http://www.hialeahfl.gov/751/Don-Quijote-Plaza.

“Ethel Primus Park.” Ethel Primus Park | Hialeah, FL, http://www.hialeahfl.gov/752/Ethel-Primus-Park.

“Garden of the Arts.” Garden of the Arts | Hialeah, FL, http://www.hialeahfl.gov/750/Garden-of-the-Arts.

Gomez , Ivonne. “New Vicky Bakery Is a Popular Spot for Inexpensive Coffee and Sweet

Treats.” Miami Herald , Miami Herald, 9 Dec. 2014, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/coral-gables/article4392176.html.

“Hialeah.” Flashback Miami, 23 Dec. 2015, flashbackmiami.com/2015/08/06/hialeah/.

“Hialeah, Florida Population 2020.” Hialeah, Florida Population 2020 (Demographics, Maps,Graphs), worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/hialeah-population/.

“Hialeah, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hialeah,_Florida.

“Hialeah Park.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalhistoriclandmarks/hialeah.htm.

“Home.” AARDVARK ANIMAL CLINIC, http://www.aardvarkanimalclinic.vet/.

“Monument Park.” Monument Park | Hialeah, FL, http://www.hialeahfl.gov/756/Monument-Park.

“Morro Castle.” Miami New Times, http://www.miaminewtimes.com/location/morro-castle-6421131.

“Our story.” Vicky Bakery 2019, https://vickybakery.com/our-story/

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