The Associated Press
Thousands of people gather at Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana on Sunday.
(AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)
MIAMI—Latin music lovers filled more than 20 blocks Sunday in the heart of the Little Havana neighborhood to listen and dance to their favorite bands and eat food from across Latin America.
Organizers of the Calle Ocho Festival expected at least a million people to turn out for the annual celebration of Hispanic culture. Television news footage from the air showed revelers packed along Little Havana’s famed Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street.
One of those people was Ofelia Garcia, 86. Wearing turquoise leggings and a flowered top, she shook, shimmied and turned her petite body to the music’s rhythm.
“I love to dance. I’ll never stop,’’ said the Puerto Rican immigrant who won the best dancer honors for people over 70.
She and others listened to musicians playing merengue, cumbia, salsa and other styles. Dozens of street vendors offered dishes ranging from Colombian corn arepas and Chilean beef empanadas to Mexican chicken tacos and Cuban tamales.
While the festival halted traffic in the area, police did not report any major problems or arrests.
The festival is in its 26th year. The Kiwanis Club of Little Havana launched the festival in 1978 to raise money for local causes and groups. It expanded from showcasing the community’s Cuban culture to include the culture of other Hispanics making South Florida home.
“You see all these different customs and people from so many different countries becoming one,’’ said Sarah Diaz, 45, who was born in Puerto Rico but makes her home in Miami.
John and Deborah Hamilton drove 120 miles across the state from Naples to be a part of the festival.
“We don’t speak Spanish. We really don’t have a clue what people are saying. But we love Cuban food and Cuban coffee,’’ said John Hamilton, 53.