Hispanic Heritage Month

white rooster

One of the many colorful roosters of Little Havana

little havana restaurant

Dinner time in Little Havana


Playing dominos in Little Havana

cigar and coffee

Freshly rolled cigar and a shot of espresso

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By: Susan Lamaigueiro

Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated yearly from September 15th – October 15th, was started as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and upgraded to a month-long celebration under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The 30-day commemorative observance was enacted into law on August 17, 1988. The 15th of September, the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage celebration, is meaningful because it is also the Independence Day anniversary for Latin American countries Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. In addition, the 16th and 18th of September are the Independence Day anniversaries for Mexico and Chile. As well, Dia de la Raza or Columbus Day falls within the 30-day period on October 12th. All within the Hispanic Heritage Month!

What does Miami have in common with Hispanic Heritage Month? Miami has the largest melting pot of Hispanics in the country, totally influencing its culture as its Latin juices flow throughout almost all of Miami’s intricate neighborhoods and streets! Experience the lively and vivacious cultures of more than 20 Hispanic and Latin countries from Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America. There’s something for everyone, so bring the whole family!

Hispanic Heritage Month kicked off on September 15th with a Tito Puente Jr. and his Latin Jazz Ensemble concert at the Littman Theater in North Miami. The Latin beat of the drums had people on their feet and moving their hips to the sound of the rhythm. It was an adrenalin rush whether you were Latin or not. Son of world-renowned Latin Jazz star, Tito Puente Sr., Tito Jr. brought to life his father’s passion through the magic sounds of his bongos!

A must do, is a stroll down the streets of Little Havana, the famous Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street) and experience Miami’s rich Cuban culture, history and heritage, through our many touring companies or by self-exploring. You’ll enjoy watching Miami’s Cuban old-timers and some newbie Cuban exiles as they sit under the shade at Miami’s famous Maximo Gomez Park (also known as Domino Park) off Calle Ocho and 15th Avenue, playing dominoes. If you’re there long enough, you just may be invited to go a round with our hometown domino experts. Listen in as you’re treated to personal stories of how they came to the states as exiles and have taken part in building our beautiful city.

While in Little Havana, learn how the Cuban people endured and how they survived after the Bay of Pigs invasion at the Bay of Pigs Museum. Walk through Cuba’s crucial point in history that changed the lives of the Cuban people forever. See photos, watch films and listen to narratives of the survivors themselves as they tell their stories of the Bay of Pigs invasion, describing through their personal experiences what they went through the night they thought help was coming, but never came.

One of Miami’s favorite ways of spending the last Friday night of every month throughout the year is at Viernes Culturales or Cultural Fridays, in the heart of Little Havana on Calle Ocho between 13th and 17th Avenues. Stroll from tent to tent and store to store as you enjoy music, art exhibits, tobacco rolling, shopping, food, drinks, poetry, theater, film, and even take a neighborhood tour. Viernes Culturales was created with the intention of preserving and enhancing the rich culture of Little Havana. The first Cultural Friday was held on May 26, 2000 and approximately two thousand people attended. It’s been a hit ever since for locals as well as those visiting. Join us on Friday, September 29th from 7pm-11pm.

Hispanic Heritage Month has something even for the business owners. Viva Miami Hispanic Business Expo helps companies promote their businesses within the Hispanic community and throughout South Florida. Sponsored by the South Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the 11th Annual Expo connected Hispanics as well as non-Hispanics for networking, relationship building within their business communities and even for conducting a little business. This expo took place September 22nd and 23rd.

If you love music and dancing, some of Latin America’s best music and culture can be enjoyed at the Rumba Crawl on Brickell, October 5th. Listen and dance to merengue, salsa, bachata, and reggaeton just to name a few, a melting pot of Latin sounds that will get you doing the dance crawl from venue to venue down beautiful Brickell Avenue in Downtown Miami. Some of Brickell’s best venues hosting the Rumba Crawl include Baru, TuCandela, Taverna Opa, RedBar Brickell and Fado’s. Register for the event at RedBar Brickell. Don’t forget to wear a pair of comfortable shoes!

On Saturday, October 7th, North Miami will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) Plaza with the 4th Annual La Gran Fiesta. This free event offers music, dancing, artistry, food, crafts, games and more. Visitors can enjoy Salsa, Samba, Bachata, and other styles of Hispanic music throughout the event. Bring a blanket and find a spot on the grass to watch graceful folk dancers, samba dancers, and more. Or just get up and dance to the music with other guests at the festival. Festivities take place from 6:30-11pm.

Some of Miami’s shopping malls are also joining in on the Hispanic Heritage Celebration!

Dolphin Mall will be hosting its Hispanic Heritage Celebration from September 15 through October 15, offering free entertainment and discounted dining to families and friends. Exciting live performances featuring cultural acts representing Latin America will take place at Ramblas Plaza Stage every Saturday at 7pm, and participating restaurants will offer 15% off every Thursday throughout the celebration. Scheduled performers include:

  • September 17: Mariachi Internacional – South Florida’s original Mexican mariachi group
  • September 24: Bolivia Magica – Group dedicated to the musical and folkloric expression of Bolivian culture
  • October 1: Puerta de Oro de Colombia – A look into Colombian culture and folklore throughout the ages through music
  • October 8: Flamenco Puro – Traditional flamenco by one of Miami’s premiere dance companies
  • October 15: Cuero Trancao – Showcase of Venezuela’s classic drum sounds

Mall of the Americas, on Flagler Street and 79th Avenue, has their Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Friday, October 6th from 5pm – 7pm. The main stage, located near the mall’s International Playground will feature live cultural performances and music from local artists and dance companies. This family-friendly event will also have face painting, arts and crafts, dominoes, vendors and more!

Miami International Mall is having their 13th Annual Miami International Mall Hispanic Heritage Celebration. This event takes place Saturday, October 21st from 1pm-6pm, with fashion demonstrations, musical and cultural performances, unlimited food and beverage tastings, including cocktails by Barcelo Rum, all for $5. All proceeds will go to local charities and the mall’s Simon Youth Foundation.

Lots of fun and free to the public, the Coral Gables Hispanic Cultural Festival, sponsored by the Gables Hispanic Cultural Foundation, celebrates with local and internationally acclaimed artists, musicians, folklore performers, designers and businesses to promote their work and showcase Miami’s diverse and unique Hispanic and Latino communities and cultures from all around the world. This family-friendly event has fun for the whole family! Plenty of booths will be showcasing art, photography, jewelry, and local businesses. Different types of food will be available for whatever your pallet desires. Enjoy a meaty empanada, a cheesy arepa, or have a full meal consisting of carnitas, beans and rice with sweet platanitos, and for desert, tres leches. Yum! Or, if you prefer, you can feel guiltless with fresh fruit, a tropical smoothie, fresh juices or maybe just a little guilty with a Mojito! Hang out by the main stage and listen to the sounds of the Latin beat as many different performers and dancers catch the eye of all who are there. The children’s area has bounce houses, face painters, games, and even fellow children performers dressed in their respective country’s typical costumes. Even the furry family members are welcomed as they too have a doggie booth where they can recluse to with water and snacks. Come out and enjoy a weekend full of great activities on Saturday, October 21st and Sunday, October 22nd, a little past the last day of the Hispanic Heritage Month, but definitely still part of the Hispanic celebrations and festivals. The Gables Hispanic Cultural Foundation’s purpose is to enhance and promote its culture and appreciation for different Hispanic cultures, education and art from around the world in South Florida.

Lastly, but certainly not least, be sure to stop at Versailles Restaurant, not only during Hispanic Heritage Month, but any time you’re in town or in the mood for a “cafecito” and a “pastelito”. Versailles is a Cuban landmark, located in the heart of Little Havana. Locals as well as visitors from all over the world come to Versailles to have authentic Cuban food, but more so for the rich cultural experience. There is mouthwatering food for people of all ages to savor. There is nothing like standing outside the open window on the side of the restaurant where old-timer Cubans and every day crowd reminisce about their days in Cuba — invaluable cultural insight. Slowly sip on a “cortadito” as the taste of espresso coffee magically mixes with “leche evaporada”, or “leche condensada” with the perfect amount of sugar that will leave you wanting one every morning. Fortunately, a cortadito or a cafecito or a café con leche can be ordered around the clock, morning, afternoon, evening, or midnight. It is typical to see people hanging around this common area all hours of the day and night.

Explore Miami's History and Heritage


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