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By: Jennifer Agress

Little Havana’s monthly Viernes Culturales festival celebrates its Latin influence.

On the third Friday of each month, head to Calle Ocho—the center of life in Little Havana—to experience one of Miami’s most authentic peeks into Hispanic arts and culture: Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays). Taking over the stretch of Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street) between 13th and 17th avenues, this monthly celebration of Cuban living is where history, food, music, dancing and art collide.

Here, more than 4,000 visitors roam through Little Havana as art galleries keep their doors open late, local restaurants spill their tables out onto the streets, neighborhood artisans sell their handicrafts, locals play dominoes and roll authentic Cuban cigars, and live music and dancers keep the fun going late. It’s both a party and a history lesson, and for Calle Ocho, it’s simply not to be missed.

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Little Havana's bright rooster sculptures dot Calle Ocho

How It All Began

While Little Havana has always been an important part of Miami’s history, it wasn’t until May 26th, 2000, when the first installment of Viernes Culturales took place, that we really gained an opportunity to celebrate it. But it actually all started more than 30 years ago. In 1984, The City of Miami Planning Department conducted a Latin Quarter Study that recommended one thing: implement a year-round series of art exhibits, dance, music, poetry, theater, film events, and neighborhood historic tours to keep the culture of Little Havana alive. In 1996, a Little Havana Neighborhood Planning Program study came to the same conclusion, so the answer was “Viernes Culturales.” The first event attracted 2,000 people, and today, many years later, it has more than doubled in size and popularity.

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At the walk-up window, you can order your Cuban coffee & bites like a local

The Food

In between the fun, make sure you stop and refuel at one of Calle Ocho’s tasty restaurants, food trucks or food stands. All along 8th Street, you’ll find a range of cuisines, including Cuban, Thai/Sushi, Chinese, Uruguayan, Mexican, Spanish, tapas and more. For a taste of the area’s classics, visit El Cristo, the all-day Cuban eatery; El Pub Restaurant, a down-home Cuban kitchen; the famed Versailles Restaurant; or any of the “ventanitas” (walk-up windows selling Cuban coffee and light Cuban bites) and Latin restaurants in-between. During Viernes Culturales, visitors can feast on food truck fare or get fresh sugarcane juice and local “batidos” (tropical fruit milkshakes) at the traditional “fruterias.”

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Find unique pieces created by local artisans

The Art

At the root of any cultural celebration are the local artists that create the culture worth celebrating—and Viernes Culturales is no exception. Wander in and around the Futurama 1637 Art Building, a creative workspace made up of 12 local art galleries. Other galleries you won't want to miss include La Isla, which is filled with Cuban art and goods; Molina, the fine art gallery by Luis Molina; and Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center, an art gallery with live music, cocktails and cigars. Also wander through Domino Park, and in-between domino competitions, you’ll find local artisans selling everything from handcrafted Cuban coffee cups and jewelry, to mosaic art, paintings, written works, poems, pottery and even poems.

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Enjoy the live music throughout Little Havana

The Music

Since music is inherently important to Latin culture, this monthly event brings it right to the streets of Miami. In the middle of 8th Street, a large stage comes alive with music and dance performances from top local and international artists, like 13-piece salsa bands, folkloric dance groups, and the Cuban timba band, “Timbalive.” All around, restaurants and other venues have their own Cuban and jazz music groups, DJs keep the crowds dancing, and Domino Park is filled with flamenco dancers and Mariachi bands.

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Start your tour in front of Miami Dade College's Tower Theater

A Peek Into Little Havana’s History

Available during every Viernes Culturales is Dr. Paul George’s free Little Havana Walking Tour—there’s no better way in Miami to learn about the history of Little Havana! This monthly tour starts at 7 p.m. in front of Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater. As a Miami Dade College history professor, author and Miami’s premier historian, Dr. Paul George has created 12 different history walking tours in Miami, from boat tours down the Miami River and a Miami Vice-inspired tour, to art and archeology tours of Downtown Miami. During his Little Havana tour, you’ll learn about the architectural significance of the neighborhood, peer into Tower Theater’s history, explore Cuban Memorial Boulevard, and find out why Little Havana is so important to Miami today.

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View in front of Cubaocho

General Information

Viernes Culturales runs from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the third Friday of every month, though many venues stay open later.

Free parking is available at the public lot on 14th Avenue, between SW 8th and 9th streets. Other parking is available at the lot on 16th Avenue, between SW 7th and 8th streets, and in the private parking lots of local businesses along 8th Street, between 13th and 14th avenues.

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