Celebrity photographer Manny Hernandez tells us why his heart is in Little Havana

Giant roosters, cafecitos, cigars, the clashing of dominoes — these are the ingredients that give the Miami neighborhood of Little Havana its flavor and swag. Over the years, Calle Ocho and its surrounding blocks have become the center of Cuban culture in Miami, since the 1960s when Cuban exiles made their way to the neighborhood and brought their traditions with them.

Today, people partake in Viernes Culturales every third Friday, the annual Carnaval Miami street festival, and dance the night away at salsa clubs and live music venues. The area is also known for its political strength. Any candidate coming through Miami knows to make a stop at Cafe Versailles for a photo op and a frothing cuban cafecito, while Máximo Gómez Park, or Domino Park, plays host to never-ending political debates.

All these things make this historic ‘hood one of Miami’s top spots to explore, street to street.

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Meet our guide

From photographing fashion shows and galas to the hottest events around town, Manny Hernandez is there chronicling Miami, the city that he loves. Although he grew up in Wynwood and now lives in Edgewater, he lived in the Little Havana neighborhood for a while as a kid. “The revival of Little Havana is incredible,” he said. No matter where he lives, he has made it a point over the years to return to the neighborhood to walk Calle Ocho, attend the Three Kings Parade and revel in New Year’s Eve celebrations.

The movies

“I enjoy going to see indie movies at the Tower Theater, especially during the Miami Film Festival. It belongs to Miami Dade College now, and I love that they kept the essence of it. It looks like an old-school movie house.”

1508 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-237-3083;

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Pitbull at Domino Park.

The game

“I love the vibe of Domino Park, and I always enjoy seeing the old dudes talk smack at each other; women, too. Aside from that they also play chess, which is a favorite thing I love to do.”

801 Southwest 15th Avenue, Miami; 305-859-2717.

The cocktail

“Even though it’s touristy, Ball & Chain still feels local. It still feels like a Latin spot where people can salsa. One of my favorite drinks is the Pastelito Daiquiri, which has a guava pastry on it. I thought it was quite unique.”

1513 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-643-7820;

Los Altos

The hideaway

“Los Altos is a hidden bar above the Taqueria El Mexicano. It’s a great lounge with a cool vibe and great music. Another bar in Little Havana is always good!”

521 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-456-5905;

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Union Beer Store

For a night out

“Bar Nancy is a great place to hang out, get cocktails, listen to ’80s music, and they have great theme nights, especially The Kitchen Club. The Union Beer Store is also my favorite to enjoy some beers. I usually come here first, then I walk over to Bar Nancy.”

Bar Nancy, 2007 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-397-8971;

Union Beer Store, 2007 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-397-8971;

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The facade of the Goodwill location in Little Havana.

The art

“I like the Goodwill thrift store. Not necessarily the thrifting part, but the outside of the building has a lot of art, including French street artist legends Invader and a rare Blek le Rat original stencil that is protected by glass. Also, around the corner you have a mural with over 20 local street artist contributions by Ahol Sniffs Glue, Atomik and others.”

982 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-858-4583.

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La Casa de los Trucos

The store

“I’ve been going to La Casa de los Trucos since I was a kid. They have all sorts of costumes and pranks. This is a Little Havana landmark!”

1343 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-858-5029;

The museum

“The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora had an amazing Celia Cruz exhibit, with her costumes. I love Celia Cruz, and I have photographed her so many times. It’s a great collection from her manager.”

1200 Coral Way, Miami; 305-529-5400;

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The colorful rooster sculptures on Calle Ocho have become a major attraction for both locals and tourists alike.

The statue

“Other cities have different animal statues, and Little Havana has the roosters. They’re everywhere, but I love the two in front of Casa Juancho. I wish someone would make a map of where they are!”

The classic

“My aunt used to make carne con papa. When she passed away, I started looking at other restaurants that made it, and Versailles had the best. As a photographer, Mondays are a quiet day for me, so it’s perfect. On Instagram I have a hashtag, #CarneConPapaMondays.”

3501 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-441-2500;

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El Rey de la Fritas

The hamburger

“The best Cuban hamburger is at El Rey de las Fritas. I love it with the mamey shake.”

1821 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 305-644-6054;

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Little Havana's Walk of Fame

The star

“The Walk of Fame Project, with sidewalk stars like the one in Los Angeles, is now defunct, but Gloria Estefan was the first star honored. They have all kinds of stars, like Roberto Durán, Sammy Sosa and Cuban legends like Andy García.”

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Lung Yai Thai Tapas

Not just cuban

“Lung Yai Thai Tapas has the best roasted baby back ribs, and I also love the Moo Manoun dish — stir fried pork, with this amazing spicy, lemony sauce.”

1731 Southwest Eighth Street, Miami; 786-334-6262.