A Street Artist’s Remembrance of Cuba in a Pop-Up Coffee Shop

by Kyle Chayka on December 6, 2012

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard (All photos by author)

MIAMI — Street artist José Parlá, known for his energetic paintings of figures, animals, and abstractions that explode into swirls of twisting ribbon, has turned into a restaurateur. At The Standard spa and hotel in Miami Beach, he has helped transform a leftover hotel room into a fully-functioning, 24-hour-a-day replica of a Cuban coffee shop transplanted into a corner of Little Havana.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

The “Cafecito” is a collaboration between Parlá and the proprietors of the local restaurant chain David’s Cafe, known for its Cuban food. The shop, which serves a potent Cuban coffee alongside a slew of fried snacks and fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, was inspired by a trip to Cuba, where Parlá’s parents lived before they fled to the United States. After extensive research (which must have included a lot of caffeine), Parlá brought back artifacts and family photos to decorate the pop-up, which opens up onto the hotel’s outdoor patio.

A neon “Cafecito Neptuno” sign adorns a shabby-chic pocket-size space that features a collection of textual murals from Parlá — the hot food case is labeled with a red and yellow “Caliente.” The walls and floor of the shop are adorned with what looks like colorful, patterned ceramic tile but turns out to be a photo mural, based on Parlá’s Cuba snapshots. Photographs of family are sprinkled throughout the space and even the styrofoam cups are hand-labeled with the cafecito’s name.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

The project is a kind of gesamtkunstwerk that forms an experience of a culture that’s still officially blocked from the United States, though its presence is unavoidably felt in and around Miami and elsewhere. The renovation of the hotel room into a coffee shop took just two weeks, but thankfully, the cafe is likely to stay a permanent feature of the hotel rather than an ephemeral pop-up. It seems only proper. Plus, they serve a really great espresso, and that sugar cane juice, our barista informed us, is great for hangovers.

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

The sugarcane juicer at Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno

The hot food case at Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno

Jose Parla’s Cafecito Neptuno at The Standard

José Parlá’s Cafecito Neptuno is located at The Standard (40 Island Avenue, Miami Beach).

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  • akacocolopez

    Capitalism is so cute.

  • I’m curious about your use of the term street artist to describe Parlá. I’m sure I’ve done it as well from time to time (hell, his work was in a show I curated and described as a show of street artists, although it would have been more accurate to describe the artists as a mix of former and current street artists and graffiti writers), but it’s not a description of Parlá that I feel really comfortable with, and I don’t believe Parlá is either.

    Parlá wrote some graffiti in his youth and was part of David Ellis’ Barnstormers collective, but the only street art or outdoor mural work he has done in recent memory are the collaborations with JR that he did in Cuba. Obviously, graffiti has been a significant influence on Parlá, but I’m just not sure I’d call him a street artist or a graffiti writer/artist. Actually making street art is not a part of his practice, nor has it ever really been (although to be fair I’ve never seen his Barnstormers work, so there might be a handful of rural area murals from those days).

    • I understand your point, RJ, but I think I personally (can’t speak for Kyle) see his work in relation to street art more than other modes of contemporary art. His solo show at Bryce Wolkowitz last year felt very much in dialogue with street art (his work on the walls, with objects in front in particular) and his layers and line feel to come out of that language. I agree he isn’t limited to that but I also think he’s informed enough by that practice to be considered in that vein. Then again, that’s only one interpretation. Where would you situate his work?

      • As you say, he’s clearly in dialogue with street art. That I definitely agree with. I just wouldn’t go so far as to actually call him a street artist.

        There are plenty of (mostly not very good) artists who are very much in dialogue with street art and graffiti, but who may have never painted a wall themselves. Matt Small ( is one who is actually quite talented.

        Of course, the next logical place to go from here is a debate about the term “urban art”… Luckily, there was recently a nice discussion on Daniel Feral’s facebook about the term –

  • David’s Cafe is also known for being a restaurant that steals from its workers. See here: The bloated “sugarcane juicer” pictured above is owner Adrian Gonzalez. He and his wife Laura Collard steal workers’ wages and Jose Parla says he is his friend. Ex and current David’s Cafe workers are owed tens of
    thousands of dollars in back wages. The ex-David’s Cafe II workers
    are still owed 20 weeks of wages and now the workers at David’s Cafe I
    are owed weeks of wages too. Please do not attend
    this event. The workers will likely not be paid for their work and are
    owed thousands as it stands now. Boycott the Standard, David’s Cafe, and
    Jose Parla until workers are paid for the work they performed at
    David’s Cafe. Read this:

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