Written by Martine St. Hilaire + Photos by @Spexphotography
Sandy Dorsainvil is the manager of the Little Haiti Cultural Complex and Mache Ayisyen, a Caribbean marketplace, in Miami, Florida. She’s responsible for maintaining the complex, creating all of the programming, and leading the production of educational programming and cultural activities. She also helps curate exhibitions in LHCC’s art gallery, dance and theatrical productions in its theatre, musical festivals in the courtyard, and vendor engagements in the marketplace. She considers her duties a labor of love.
Dorsainvil started working at the LHCC on September 11, 2013, as the complex’s Marketing and Special Events Coordinator. In 2014, she became its Managing Director. Over the years, she has poured her heart and soul into the Little Haiti community.
Dorsainvil also serves as executive producer of Sounds of Little Haiti, a monthly music festival that celebrates Haitian culture and heritage in Little Haiti. “In 2018, we took Sounds of Little Haiti one step further by starting the Rara Institute of Music (RIM),” says Dorsainvil. The Institute isa music program that teaches students to play traditional Haitian Rara instruments. RIM contributed to the forming of Ti Rara and the Little Haiti Rara Orchestra.
One of Dorsainvil’s greatest accomplishments at the LHCC is the reopening of Mache Ayisyen in February 2022. The Caribbean marketplace had been closed for over ten years. Dorsainvil’s team was able to revamp the space, encourage the city to renovate it, and bring in vendors from all over the city to sell cultural products. “More recently, we’ve revamped the marketplace to include anchor vendors that bring a fresh and new feeling to the space,” she says. “We are also proud to say that we have curated several Haitian Heritage Month events in May that celebrate Haitian culture at the highest level.”
To market the reopening of Mache Ayisien, Dorsainvil turns to publications, social media campaigns, and television advertisements. The purpose of these marketing avenues is to promote the cultural center and all of the great activities produced there weekly. Her team was able to add dance classes, art classes, a full-service cocktail lab (Lakay), a coffee shop (Le Jardin) and a new pizza spot (Simply Good Pizza) to the complex.
It doesn’t stop there. Most importantly, Dorsainvil and her team brought back the delightful educational arts and culture programming. Groups like Tradisyon Lakou Lakay, The Nancy St. Ledge Dance Ensemble, Dance Now, and Delou Africa are once again teaching classes to the LHCC community. The art gallery has also been reactivated with new in exciting exhibitions like Noir Atlantic. “We also have modern staples like Kreyol Essence, Veve Collections and Ebene products at the market weekly,” Dorsainvil added.
Dorsainvil describes the month of May as the LHCC’s Super Bowl. “We spend the entire 31 days of the month celebrating all things Haitian in grand fashion,” she says. The month-long list of activities at the complex includes a fashion show, several art exhibitions, music festivals, and much more.
In the near future, Dorsainvil hopes to see the LHCC’s programming expand. She envisions the art exhibits and musical programs to be live-streamed regularly on social media so the rest of the world can enjoy them. She also wants to see significant growth in the arts and music education programs by including even more children. Last, but certainly not least, Dorsainvil would love to see the Caribbean marketplace become a staple tourist attraction where millions of people can come visit each year to get a taste of Haitian culture.
“The LHCC is Ti Ayiti!” says Dorsainvil.
Top 5 Reasons to Visit Little Haiti Cultural Center
We asked Dorsainvil why people should keep visiting LHCC. Here are her answers:
- The LHCC is fun! It’s a place where you’ll meet all different types of people, and it always has positive energy and good vibes.
- The complex is a great place to get a little taste of Haiti if you can’t visit Haiti. You’ll find delicious Haitian food, exquisite Haitian art, and fantastic Haitian music.
- The LHCC provides boundless ways to connect friends and family who are not Haitian to the positive and beautiful world of goods and services Haitian culture has to offer.
- Admission to the LHCC is free. People can come to enjoy themselves and be in good company at no cost. The food and the beverages are affordable, and the arts services are inexpensive.
- LHCC is the next best thing to visiting Haiti. Visitors’ experiences range from the fresco cart, the authentic tap bus, and Barbancourt Rhum cocktails to the straw hats. “The LHCC is Ti Ayiti!”says Dorsainvil.