Teatro Marti

420 SW 8th Avenue,
Miami, FL 33130

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Located in the Mercantile Building across from the Ada Merritt Middle School playground, this location once housed the violent Miami chapter of the KKK.

In 1971 in opened a new page in its history as a mixed live show and movie theatre for the booming Cuban exile community. By the 1980’s it was a three auditoria venue with a mix of Spanish films, subtitled Hollywood features and live shows at any given time. Although oddly configured, with columns in the way of the screens and non-sloped floors, the Marti outlasted the nearby Tivoli Theatre due to its entertainment mix and constant flow of new refugees to the area.

Contributed by Al Alvarez

Recent comments (view all 13 comments)

Louis of Pompano
Louis of Pompano on August 28, 2008 at 4:51 am


The neighborhood was little Havana before the assasination. Riverside Elementary, Ada Merit Jr. High, and Miami High were the schools where spanish speaking teachers were hired to handle the kids that came from Cuba. Technically speaking, Cubans were segregated into what is known as Little Havana. This segregation took place due to the anticipated language barriers that were going to become reality once the larger numbers of people came to Miami. Most don’t know this because it wasn’t a racial thing, but the fact is that Cubans were segregated and that is how the SW area became what it is.

The theatres of the area, The Tivoli, and The Tower became the “spanish speaking” theatres, hence the movies and live shows you have posted about. In addition, places such as Miami Stadium became venues for larger audiences and Anti-Castro demonstrations. There is a film, “White Elephant”, that brings some of this history into view. I haven’t seen it, but it did have a limited engagement at The Tower a couple of years ago.

Teatro Marti had a late start given that it was founded in 1971, which was a good 10 years after the Cubans started coming to the US. The majority of Cubans came to Miami, but some went to Key West, Tampa, Clewiston, West Palm Beach, and Union City New Jersey. The smallest numbers were in Clewiston and West Palm, these were the Cubans who were involved in the sugar business. Key West as well as Tampa had much more influence, but a good portion of that influence was due to the Havana Key West Tampa cigar trade days, which were pre-revolution. Mind you the rum runners were also plentiful, although these colorful characters are rarely spoken about, they played a critical role in the Cuban influence on Key West, but mostly Tampa. This is why you do not see any theatres in the WPB and Clewiston areas that evolved in the manner that the Tivoli and Tower theatres did. I haven’t researched Tampa theatres.

Union City is another story. The Tony Theatre in Bergen Line, what I call the equivalent of SW 8th Street, is or was a theatre that evolved just like the Tower and Tivoli theatres of Miami. I haven’t looked up the Tony Theatre, hadn’t thought of it! I should see if it is listed on Cinema Treasures.

BTW, you should list the Hippodrome. You have such a wealth of information about all these theatres that we never knew existed. It’s always a pleasure to read your fascinating posts.

kencmcintyre on April 8, 2009 at 3:44 am

It looks like there are all kinds of things going on in this building. I noted a Hispanic church, a Hindu church, a comedy club and a few other things. Here is a 1981 photo:

kencmcintyre on May 16, 2009 at 1:08 am

Sorry about that, it was a duplicate. Both of these entries can be deleted.

kencmcintyre on May 16, 2009 at 2:25 am

And responding to them.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on June 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Here is a November 1937 article about the activities of the Miami Ku Klux Klan:

View link

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

I just met his stepson last Christmas here in NYC where he is an actor. I will ask him the next time I see him.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on January 6, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Great website on the history of Miami Cuban Exile theatre.


armando135 on August 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm

Ada Merritt Junior High School


armando135 on March 20, 2017 at 11:21 pm

Hi and Hello
History and Memories AM JHS



Please check it out I hope you enjoy it. thanks armando

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