There is a gigantic colorful dancing block party getting ready to explode with music, flavors and plenty of alegria (happiness). It takes place every March. The Festival de la Calle Ocho (eight-street festival) in Miami, started as a celebration of Cuban culture. It now celebrates all things Latin in South Florida.
What is Calle Ocho?
It all started in the 1980s by the newly arrived Cuban community sharing their culture, music and food. Today it keeps the same spirit. Now, it is a big fiesta that celebrates Latin culture in South Florida! Yes, every Spanish speaking country is represented via food, flags, music or performers at this street party.
Also known as Carnaval Miami, this annual tradition it is one of the largest street parties in the USA. This is the 40th year of the celebration. More than one million people come to have fun in 19 blocks of the Miami neighborhood called Little Havana, which vibrates during the carnival to the hip-swaying Latin rhythms. For this celebration of Hispanic culture, all you need is your smile, your best walking/ dancing shoes, and an empty tummy to fill with croquetas, arepas, pinchos, and much more.
On “Calle 8” Sunday, the official location for the Festival de la Calle Ocho is blocked off to traffic on SW 8th Street from 8th Avenue to SW 27th Avenue.
What is all the buzz about The King?
Calle Ocho always has an official King or Queen. This representative of Latin music is always the highlight of the festival. He or she is a beloved performer who will undoubtedly put on a great show. In the past, music legends such as Desi Arnaz, Willie Chirino, Gloria Estefan, Oscar D’Leon, and Pitbull have all worn the crown. The 2016 crown went to Cuban-born star Andy Garcia. In 2017, the boy group CNCO has been crowned as carnaval king.
Cross Cultural TravelingMom Tips
- The festival is free. It is overall safe, family friendly and a joyful event with many people enjoying it with you. It can be very crowded near sampling stations and music stages.
- Be generous with your sunscreen. Spring in Miami is usually in the mid to high 80s. The sun shines brightly all day long. Make sure you reapply sunscreen and bring your hats and sunglasses. Many sponsor brands at the festival hand out sunglasses and visors. But, you never know how fast they might run out. Don’t forget to keep hydrated too.
- Food vendors are out in full force. Samples alongside food demonstrations are always abundant. So, be mindful of what the children accept if you are concerned with allergies.
- Take the stroller. There will be plenty of walking. The stroller will save you from meltdowns. It will also serve as a place to keep all the swag you collect from sponsors.
- Street dancing. Plenty of couples and performers will be in your way dancing. Be on the look out for those making the conga line trying to beat the World Guinness record set here for the longest conga line.
- Practice your Spanish. Fluent or with only a couple of Spanish words in your repertoire, this is your chance to learn, polish and practice Spanish!
Why Our Family Goes Every Year
This is a fun and inexpensive way to take a gastronomic tour all over the entire southern hemisphere with the kids. It is perfect to indulge in amazing traditional street food that is perfect for little fingers. My kids gobble up the empanadas (beef or chicken turnovers) and delicious Venezuelan or Colombian arepas (corn-cakes) like they are going out of style. I take advantage to savor the famous Cuban sandwich, and some coladita shots (sweetened espresso Cuban style).
Calle Ocho is also one big street concert that offers just about every genre of Latin music. You will hear it all from salsa, merengue, bachata, Latin pop and reggaeton hosted. There are also plenty of hip-hop and street artists that will invite you and your family to dance the day away.
Too much dancing and food? Take a break at the Children’s Festival where kids are entertained with activities like coloring flags or making traditional latin hand-crafts like maracas.
Beyond Calle Ocho Day
Most people refer to Calle Ocho as a particular day event. In reality, it is the culmination for a series of cultural ticketed events that include domino and soccer tournaments, a golf classic, a cooking contest, electing Miss Carnaval, plus a 10K run. So, if you plan on coming to Miami to discover a unique block party, consider coming a few days earlier to enjoy the celebrations around it. You might want to attend as well as its sister festival “Carnaval on the Mile” which focusses on Latin Jazz.
While you are enjoying the legendary Calle Ocho celebrating Miami’s Latin heritage join in and echo when you hear someone say “wepa” (Weh – pah). It is a Latin party cry of sorts that means among other things “time to celebrate,” “oh yeah!” “this party is good” or “time to dance!” Come on let’s meet at Calle Ocho, Wepa!!
TravelingMom Tip: the famous Versailles Cuban food restaurant is right on calle ocho!