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Sunny Miami is a beautiful city, for both business and pleasure. The people, the fashion, the beach and the Art Deco buildings shine by day and shimmer at night. Faces of the African diaspora have added to the aesthetic since the Magic City’s turn-of-the-century start. More recently, the rush of Latin and Afro-Caribbean immigration in the 1960s and ’80s has shaped a cultural diversity that stretches up the coast to Fort Lauderdale.
Although South Beach is the undisputed must-see and must-do in town, a good start to your after-business exploration is away from the water, at the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. (Joseph Caleb Community Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave.; 305-636-2390) in Liberty City. The center displays photographs and art, and documents the development of local black life. The center is also restoring the historic Lyric Theater (819 NW Second Ave.), where the outer walls are covered by a mural that features historical figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Billie Holiday. Also in the neighborhood, Afro In Books N Things (5575 NW Seventh Ave.; 305-756-6107) hosts readings by black authors and sells the Miami Times, one of the South’s oldest black-owned newspapers, which features weekly events.
Much of Miami’s shopping is flavored by the cultural arts. In nearby Little Haiti, music and handmade baskets can be purchased at the small flea market, Caribbean Marketplace (5927 NW Second Ave.). In Miami Beach, Haitians frequent Tap Tap (819 Fifth St.; 305-672-2898) for seafood, soup or tropical drinks. Every inch of the place is painted with Haitian art. The Cuban community of Little Havana centers around the shops along Calle Ocho (Eighth St.). Watch Cuban tabaqueros hand-roll stogies at El Credito Cigars (1106 Calle Ocho; 305-858-4162). African sculpture and original prints by African American and Caribbean artists are on display at Gallery Antigua (5130 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-759-5355).
Back on the beach, Chris Blackwell, former president of Island Records, is busy developing several hotels and a recording studio. At the new Bar at the Marlin Hotel decorated in “Afro-urban” style (1200 Collins Ave.; 305-6738373), Spanish-style tapes and drinks are served in a lounge with live DJ music. Celebrities also patronize Blackwell’s Island Outpost (1332 Ocean Dr.; 305-673-0635) boutique that, in the past, has sold world music, jewelry and fantastic batiks and silks.
Getting past the ropes of some Miami nightclubs can be as trying as in New York or Los Angeles. Worth the wait is Groove Jet (323 23rd. St.; 305-532-2002), where five DJs spin house and electronica music. Outdoors is the Crystal VIP lounge area decorated in mosaic glass. NBA star Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat has opened Onyx (245-22nd St.; 305-604-0684), where hip-hop and reggae thump on the , weekends.
Listen to WHQT Hot 105 for urban contemporary music and First Fridays events (305-835-0290), and WLVE 93.9 for smooth jazz.
South Florida is a golfer’s dream, but the most unusual spectator sport around is jai alai. At Miami Jai-Alai (3500 NW 37th Ave.; 305-633-6400), locals love to bet on the