Where: Calle Ocho (8th Street) Little Havana, Miami
When: Beginning of March
Happenings: Hispanic food, salsa dancing, Latin American music concerts, drinking, and partying
Remember to bring: Your dancing shoes and plenty of dollars to purchase sizzling local cuisine
Where It’s At
The Calle Ocho Festival is the finale of the annual Carnival Miami held at the beginning of March. Nine days of beauty pageants, concerts, drag shows, and cooking contests have preceded and this is a great time to pay a visit to Little Havana, the Cuban quarter of Miami. Calle Ocho means 8th Street in Spanish and this is the pulsing heart of the Cuban neighborhood where all things Cuban can be purchased like Hispanic remedies, cigars, coffee, clothes, and even bridal wear.
What Happens at the Calle Ocho?
After the Cuban revolution of 1959, 200,000 immigrants arrived in Miami and settled in a district that became known as Little Havana. Calle Ocho is their annual festival that celebrates both their cultural and religious roots. The area is vibrant with sounds, sights and smells; speakers blast latino music into every direction, brightly painted street signs show you where to go, and the smell of freshly ground coffee and cigars fills the air. Amongst the hubbub, elderly men continue to play their age old games of dominoes in the parks.
A highlight of the festival is to watch the salseros, dancers from the major salsa schools, dance down the street from where they congregate at Ayestarán Restaurant at the end of 8th Street, on the corner with 27th Avenue, from 9.30 am on Sunday. Dancers wrap themselves in the flag of their country of origin and unify in dance.
Specialty foods that can be sampled at the festival include ropa vieja (shredded skirt steak with plantain), cabrito (baby goat), other barbecued meats, arepas, and seafood such as paella and ceviche. It should of course all be washed down with a real Cuba Libre cocktail, comprising of rum and coke served with a wedge of lime.
Other Things to See and Do
Either before or after the Calle Ocho, visit the botanicas – spiritual shops. They aren’t open during the festival, but any other time of the year they are Aladdin’s dens of religious artifacts and potions for every malady under the sun including loneliness and sexual frustration.
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
701 Brickell Avenue Suite 2700
Miami, FL 33131, USA
Telephone: 001 305/539 3000
Fax: 001 800/933 8448
La Negra Francisca
1323 SW 8 St (Calle Ocho)
FL 33135, USA
Just one of the many botanicas in Calle Ocho, Little Havana. Pop in and buy a potion for less than a dollar that will help you stay young, find love, achieve business success, or remedy any other malady in your life – spiritual or physical! This and the other botanicas along Calle Ocho (8th Street) are treasure troves where the mournful faces of alabaster saints nestle between Santeria dolls and mantelpiece ornaments.
By Faye Welborn
main image: y Dtobias – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4119108