Hispanic Festivals & Events in florida

    By Carlos Harrison

    It's hardly surprising that a state discovered and named by Spaniards would be home to an armada of Hispanic fiestas and events – and centuries after Juan Ponce de Leon and other Spanish explorers first set foot on Florida’s shores, the state definitely lives up to its heritage.

    Hispanic festivals run year-round and statewide in Florida. And there are new ones being added all the time. Here’s a listing:



    St. Augustine Nights of Lights Festival and Celebration

    OK, technically it’s a holiday festival, which just happens to be rated as one of the best displays of Christmas lights in the country by none other than National Geographic. But when you’re dealing with the city where Spaniards first laid claim to the New World, isn’t just about everything that happens here Hispanic in a way? I mean, picture it: strolling past the strings of white lights draping the beautiful and scenic Bridge of Lions leading up to St. Augustine’s Old Town as you gaze at the nation’s oldest Spanish fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos; or standing in the glow of the Christmas tree in the city’s central park, the Plaza de la Constitución. (See? Even the park’s name is in Spanish.) The plaza was built to celebrate the Spanish Constitution of 1812. The lights are up from late November through January.
    More information:

    Gasparilla Pirate Fest

    Arrrr, mateys! January is when Tampa celebrates its plundering at the hands of the pirate Jose Gaspar. It begins with a re-enactment of the invasion, with a flotilla led by the fully-rigged pirate ship Jose Gasparilla. The colorfully costumed pirate “krewes” celebrate their successful takeover of the city with a parade, sharing their wealth by tossing beads and doubloons to the spectators lined along the route. The party continues with a street fest, with live entertainment on multiple stages.
    More information: gasparillapiratefest.com




    Sant' Yago Knight Parade

    Bright lights, Ybor City. Staged for more than three decades by the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’Yago, the nighttime parade features brilliantly lit and decorated floats, bands, costumed “pirates” and the king, queen and royal court of the Sant’Yago Krewe. It’s part of Tampa’s list of Gasparilla Festival activities, usually falling a week or two after the “invasion” and Pirate Parade.
    More information: kreweofsantyago.com

    Fiesta Day

    Tampa’s Ybor City honors the Cuban, German, Italian, African-Cuban, Jewish and Spanish immigrants who first settled the neighborhood in 1886. The street festival started as a “verbena” – a day of rest – for the workers who rolled cigars in the neighborhood’s noted factories. Now, nearly 70 years later, the free festival involves closing down La Setima (7th Avenue) and filling the street with food, music, exhibits and entertainment.
    More information: http://ybor.org/fiestaday/

    Flan Fest

    Now over a decade old, Flan Fest involves fierce competition and satisfied sweet-teeth. Past contests have pitted as many as 40 participants against each other, all putting their best flan forward. The creamy Latin custards compete for cash prizes in presentation, appearance, traditional and non-traditional categories. The fest isn’t just for flan-makers, of course. It includes flan sampling, a flan eating contest and flans for sale. It’s all conveniently scheduled to take place during Fiesta Day, right on Ybor City’s main thoroughfare.
    More information:

    Calle Ocho, food vendor grilling goodies

    From arepas to croquetas, Latin street food is sold on every corner at Miami’s annual Calle Ocho Festival.

    - Kiwanis Club of Little Havana



    Miami International Film Festival

    International means global, but films, stars and directors from Spain and across the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking Americas are a major part of what puts MIFF on the map. It runs for better than a week in early March, with so many films, talks and after-parties it’s impossible for anyone to attend them all. There are also plenty of red-carpet celebrity-sighting opportunities, and chances for Q&A’s with filmmakers and the actors who bring the stories to life on the big screen.
    More information: Call 305-237-3456, or visit miamifilmfestival.com

    Menorcan Heritage Celebration

    The “smaller” Spanish island in the Mediterranean (as opposed to its Majorcan neighbor) had a big impact on St. Augustine. The original 1,300 or so colonists came over as indentured servants to work on a Scottish speculator’s indigo plantation south of the city. They ended up fleeing his despotic rule and asking for help from officials in St. Augustine, who freed them and granted them land parcels to settle on. Their descendants are still there nearly two-and-a-half centuries later, and still proudly proclaiming their heritage. Which the Menorcan Cultural Society happily celebrates and shares with everybody who comes by the Llambias House in St. Augustine’s historic center. They’ll be telling stories, singing traditional songs and serving up Menorcan (or Minorcan; they spell it both ways) clam chowder, a variety of pilaus, and offering their signature datil pepper sauces and jellies for those who like to spice things up.
    More information:
    Call 904-540-3067; or visit menorcansociety.net/menorcan-heritage

    Cuban Sandwich Festivals

    For real Latin flavor – heh heh – it’s hard to beat Tampa’s annual Cuban Sandwich Festival in March. It includes live music, art and cultural exhibitions and, of course, the sandwich competition that gives the two-day festival its name. Restaurants and sandwich makers from across the country challenge each other to make the very best Cuban sandwich in the land. Categories include traditional, non-traditional and “popular vote.”
    More information: thecubansandwichfestival.com

    Carnaval Miami / Calle Ocho

    This is it! South Florida’s premier Hispanic event of the year, including what bills itself as the “largest block party in the world,” happens in the heart of Little Havana. It actually stretches over 10 days of beauty pageants, sports events, food and concerts, culminating with Calle Ocho, a 23-block street festival. It’s grown to include live salsa, merengue and Caribbean music on 30 stages, and claims to draw a million people.
    More information: Call 305-644-8888, visit carnavalmiami.com


    Puerto Rican Festival and Parade

    The streets of downtown Orlando fill with proud Puerto Ricans waving flags, celebrating their heritage and their connection to the Isle of Enchantment. Come early, stay late. The parade is followed by a string of salsa, merengue, hip-hop and reggaeton artists performing deep into the night at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
    More information:



    St. Augustine Unidos En La Música: A Latin American Festival

    The name translates to “United in Music.” It’s a lovely thought, fitting the festival organizer’s goal “to unite Latin Americans in Florida.” And what better way to do it than with a day-long celebration filled with Latin music, dance, performances, workshops, art, games, food and beverages? In, of all places, the city where the Spaniards first planted their flag. In fact, the family-friendly fiesta takes place at St. Augustine’s Francis Field, a few short blocks from the Castillo de San Marcos.
    More information:




    Ballet Hispanico

    Mark your calendar for for a world premiere by Miami dance star Rosie Herrera and works by Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro. In Ballet Hispanico’s words, it “explores the contemporary Latin soul through works that fuse ethnic dance with classical and contemporary techniques.”
    More information:  ballethispanico.org




    Orlando Salsa Congress

    Put on your dancing shoes and salsa, salsa, salsa. It’s four days and nights of live music, more than 50 workshops, more than 30 dance performances per night, pool parties by day, and salsa and bachata dancing at night until at least 4 a.m. It’s all wrapped around the Fourth of July holiday.
    More information:  orlandocongress.com

    Miami Salsa Congress

    Five days. Five hundred performers. Five thousand fans. This is non-stop salsa action, showcasing world-renowned international dancers strutting their stuff and showing others how. It happens at the beginning of August. Highlights include dance workshops, concerts, all-star DJs, parties and, of course, exhibitions by some of the world’s best dancers.
    More information: Call 305-220-7115, or visit miamisalsacongress.com

    International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami

    Hispanic theater doesn’t get better than this. It heats up in mid-July. Theater companies from Latin America, Europe and the United States present a series of Hispanic-themed plays and staged readings at multiple venues in Miami and Key Biscayne.
    More information: Call 305-445-8877, or visit teatroavante.org




    (Orlando) Hispanic Heritage Art Exhibition

    The City of Orlando is hosting a two-month-long fiesta for the eyes. The art exhibit in the Terrace Gallery at the City Hall Rotunda celebrates the creativity and diverse cultural heritage of 26 Central Florida artists from different Hispanic backgrounds working in a variety of disciplines.
    More information:

    (Orange County) Hispanic Heritage Art Exhibition

    A month isn’t enough to hold all the activities Orange County has planned for Hispanic Heritage Month. For starters, it’s hosting an exhibit by local Hispanic painters and artisans that runs from the Wednesday right after Labor Day until the last day of October. (Yep, that’s Halloween, but this eye-candy will expand your mind and soul, not your waistline.) The works highlighting the impact of Hispanic culture in Central Florida will be on display at the Orange County Administration Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. And, yes, it’s free.
    More information:

    (Orange County) Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff

    Let the fiesta begin! The Hispanic Heritage Committee of Greater Orange County hosts several kicks off it’s more than a month-long celebration with an outdoor reception at Cypress Grove Estate House, featuring musical performances, dances and (yum!) samples of Hispanic cuisine.
    More information:

    (City of Orlando) Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff

    Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and District 2 City Commissioner Tony Ortiz will be on hand to, well, kick off the city’s Hispanic Heritage Month festivities. This year’s theme: “Hispanic Americas: A History of Serving Our Nation.” The event, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Orlando City Hall Rotunda, includes food, music, entertainment, and the ribbon-cutting for the Hispanic Heritage Art Exhibition, as well as the reading of an official city proclamation.
    More information:

    Tampa Hispanic Heritage Season

    Hispanic Heritage Season runs from September through mid-November, with multiple events celebrating Tampa’s rich Hispanic history, old and new. Its mission, in the words of its organizers, “is to foster, promote, and preserve the Hispanic heritage and culture in the Tampa Bay Area.” And that includes Hispanics from throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula. There are poetry and poster contests, the selection of a cultural ambassador and at least one gala.
    More information: tampahispanic.org

    Hispanic Heritage Celebration

    Move it to that Latin beat, North Florida! Music, dance, food and fun for the entire family. Performances by local Latin bands including Orchestra Fuego, CaribeGroove, Danzas Perujax, and Mariachi Primera Costa. Food trucks offering Cuban, Mexican, and “Latin Soul” food. Kids activities. All at Jacksonville’s Hemming Park. Oh, yeah!
    More information:




    Orange County Mayor’s Cup Soccer Tournament

    Americans may call the game soccer, but if you know anything about Hispanics, you’ll know that futbol to them is the emotional-equivalent of what football is to Americans – the sport that makes fans fan-atics! It’s something to watch and shout about, and something kids and adults play with a passion. For the fifth consecutive year, the Hispanic Heritage Committee is hosting the Orange County Mayor’s Cup Soccer Tournament, pitting youth and adult soccer teams from across Central Florida in various championship categories. The final matches and the presentation of the Mayor’s Cup is set for Oct. 20.
    More information:

    First Coast Hispanic Culture Film Festival

    The name says it all. It’s a film festival dedicated to celebrating Hispanic culture. That means bringing together film directors, producers, leading actors and celebrities to Florida’s First Coast and airing a slew of international motion picture pictures that do just that — with multiple screenings every one of the festivals four days at St. Augustine’s Corazon Cinema and Cafe. More than 100 films had been submitted for consideration at press time. For the final schedule visit the website below.
    More information:

    Viva Tampa Bay Hispanic Heritage Festival

    This family-friendly art and cultural festival at Tampa’s Perry Harvey Sr. Park is all about celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. It includes lots of fun activities, food, dance exhibitions, and music spanning the spectrum of Latin sound – by groups including the Puerto Rican and Dominican band Oro Solido, Premio Lo Nuestro-winner Frankie Negron, and Cuban-style Timbalive, among others.
    More information:

    Tampa Bay Latin Film Festival

    Hola, St. Petersburg! The festival is a showcase for extraordinary emerging and established Latin American filmmakers — and a way for folks here to discover and delight in their creations. They’ll be showing feature, documentary and short films by award-winning directors that explore the complexities of life in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, and Cuba. This year’s offerings include the Colombian drama “Matar a Jesus” (Killing Jesus), the acclaimed Chilean-Argentine “La Novia del Desierto” (The Desert Bride), and the classic post-Revolutionary Cuban film “Los Sobrevivientes” (The Survivors).
    More information:

    Brazilian Festival of Pompano Beach

    In case you didn’t know, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach have some of the highest percentages of Brazilian ex-pats in the United States. Which might explain why more than 20,000 people turned out to dance and sing along with last year’s “Multicultural, Multi-Genre, Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Regional and Multi-Grammy Winning” line up of musical performers at Pompano Beach Community Park. It’s a festival and a festa, with two days of Brazilian art, culture, music and cuisine – complete with a talent show, capoeira exhibitions, and samba performances.
    More information:
    Call 786-584-9034 or visit brazilianfestpompano.org

    Festival Calle Orange

    It’s billed as Central Florida's largest Hispanic festival. It started as a primarily Puerto Rican festival but now includes people from Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. For what? To eat, drink and dance in the streets of downtown Orlando. Did we say big? For past festivals, the city closed off 10 downtown streets, put up four stages and hosted performances by more than 40 recording artists from around the world. And talk about family friendly: One entire street is dedicated to children’s activities.
    More information: calleorange.com




    Conga Caliente

    Come on everybody, can you do the conga? In November, Tampa’s Al Lopez Park is the scene for music and dance by national and international performers, along with food, art, a beer garden, traditional cigars and a domino tournament. It’s a free and fun fest for the whole family.
    More information:  congacaliente.com

    Festival de Bomba y Plena

    What? You didn’t get enough dancing at Conga Caliente? Well, keep those dancing shoes on, you’re in luck. The bomba and plena fest at Water Works Park in Tampa caters to lovers of the percussion-based traditional Puerto Rican musical and dance styles. They’re both music of identity, music of celebration and, hey, the festival is free — what’s better than that?
    More information:

    St. Augustine Nights of Lights Festival and Celebration

    (See the listing at the beginning of the calendar, under the January events. But trust us, it’s worth marking your calendar for — and very well worth going back to more than once.) The lights are up through January.
    More information:

    Tampa Salsa & Bachata Festival

    Oh, baby, this one’s educational and fun. By day, top local and international dancers offer classes running the gamut from beginner to advanced in both salsa and bachata (a popular Dominican style of dance and music, in case you didn’t know). By night, the stars come out — dance stars, that is, with performances by some of the world’s best. Then, there’s music and a chance for everyone to put their skills on display and dance the rest of the night away. For five straight days!
    More information:

    Art Basel Miami, crowds at the entryway

    Art Basel Miami may not be specifically a Hispanic event, but it attracts enough Hispanic artists, vendors and buyers to qualify as a showcase for what’s hot in the Latin art world.

    - Art Basel



    Art Basel Miami

    It may not be specifically a Hispanic event, but it attracts enough Hispanic artists, vendors and buyers to qualify as a showcase for what’s hot in the Latin art world. Art Basel lands at the first week of December at venues throughout South Florida, from Wynwood to Miami Beach.
    More information: Visit artbasel.com

    Places to Remember