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    Don’t talk politics in Little Havana

    Danny Bravo warmed up on his trumpet before playing at the Ball & Chain nightclub Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

    MIAMI — Johnny “Big Papa” Cardona doesn’t talk politics.

    “For me, it’s a no,” said Cardona, owner of D Asis Guayaberas, a men’s clothing store in the heart of Little Havana. “You shouldn’t talk politics here.”

    But after buying a couple of guayaberas — it’s a type of shirt, popular in Cuba, with four pockets in the front for cigars and guava — I did just that. I walked down the street to Domino Park, where I chatted up some of the oldsters who gather every day for lively games of dominoes.

    Big mistake. A lot of these guys grew up in Cuba and came to this country to escape Castro. They said they’re terrified the United States is tilting left and a few referred to President Biden as a radical socialist.

    “Joe Biden?!” I replied. “If Joe Biden is a radical socialist, I’m Don Shula.”

    That was enough of that. Across the street, it was happy hour at Ball & Chain, a legendary Little Havana hangout where Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Chet Baker used to gig. Today, an Afro-Cuban ensemble was playing, and two women wearing long, flower-print skirts were dancing at the bar.

    I could have stayed all night, but we’d been on the road for two-plus weeks and driven over 2,500 miles. Before flying back to Boston, I wanted to go to South Beach. Are the people there as beautiful as they say? We drove to the water. Dining al fresco in their capri pants and ice cream-colored linen shirts, the crowd wasn’t bad-looking, but the sunset was spectacular.

    Boston Globe Staffers Julian Benbow, Mark Shanahan and Craig Walker took a selfie in Miami Beach. ()

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