One of South Florida’s most renowned attractions, Little Havana is an eclectic mix of Cuban and Latino influences that provides a rich cultural experience unlike any other in the world. Corinna Moebius ’89 has immersed herself in the life of this neighborhood as a resident, guide, author and cultural anthropologist.
“People often think of Little Havana in terms of nostalgia; a replica of Cuba before the communist revolution,” says Moebius. “I want people to understand that Little Havana isn't a Disneyland of the past. It has its own unique history, but it's not stuck in the past. The neighborhood maintains traditions while also buzzing with a creative energy in terms of music, food, visual and performing arts because it continues to be something of an Ellis Island for recently arrived Spanish-speaking immigrants from Cuba and elsewhere, and it is also a place where U.S. born or raised Latinos –
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Moebius has co-authored a book entitled A History of Little Havana that provides an in-depth portrait of the iconic neighborhood’s transition from a Jewish neighborhood to Cuban enclave to a vibrant, multi-ethnic community with an influential voice on the political stage.
Of the recent shift in US policy to restore full diplomacy with Cuba, most in Little Havana see it as a positive step forward according to Moebius, but sometimes with strong reservations. There is a wait-and-see attitude for many who are concerned about human rights issues for Cubans on the island and who hope that upcoming changes will benefit existing citizens.
A 1989 graduate of the Bachelor’s with Individual Concentration Program at UMass Amherst, Moebius majored in communications and anthropology with a minor in geography. “UMass taught me to think critically and to plan for what I wanted to do,” she says. “I’ve had a very eclectic career but always done what I loved.”
Moebius has worked as consultant in Washington, DC and Los Angeles specializing in developing and implementing marketing, public outreach, public education and public participation strategies. After moving to Little Havana, she served as the executive director of the arts and cultural festival, Viernes Culturales and was the director for Imagine Miami, a countywide civic engagement initiative spearheaded by the nonprofit Catalyst Miami. She continues to serve as a consultant on civic engagement related to urban planning and land use, and leads customized tours and workshops for tourists, journalists and scholars.
Guiding visitors through the rich sensory experience of Little Havana is a passion for Moebius. She leads walking tours through the neighborhood that include introductions to local poets, musicians, Santeras/os, small business owners and others along the way. She also provides experiential workshops leading to a deeper understanding of Cuban and Latino history and culture. “I’m working with Afro-Cuban dancers who used to perform with the leading folkloric dance company of Cuba on a workshop to teach Cuban music and dance,” notes Moebius.
Corinna Moebius enjoys teaching people through the experience of walking through Little Havana and hopes that her tours deepen understanding of place, history, culture and identity. Learn more about her work at peopleplaceconnect.com.
By Elena Lamontagne
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