Cuchi-Frito Caliente

Calle Ocho turns up the sizzle

SUN 3/14 The Calle Ocho Festival

has een described as the hottest street fair in America. With a mix of Latin music legends, hoochie-coochie starlets, and up-and-coming acts, the party gets beamed via Spanish television networks all over the world. Despite its grand scale, the event sneaks up on us every year. Guess what. It's back. This year Calle Ocho promises to attract at least a million people -- that's right, a million -- to the stretch of SW 8th Street between 5th and 27th avenues with at least 20 stages featuring musical acts, games, and glitter throughout the day and into the night.

The entire shebang is headlined by Nuyorican salsero and King of Calle Ocho 2004, Victor Manuelle. Though he carries the pretty-boy looks and heartthrob sensibilities of a telenovela protagonist, Manuelle can really sing. He doesn't depend on money notes or other pop techniques; instead he brings a virtuosic and full-ranged voice to the stage, especially when he performs old-school son.

But Manuelle is not the only true salsero performing. He is joined by Venezuela's Oscar D'Leon, known to Latin music aficionados as El Leon De La Salsa. If you've never caught a salsa concert, it's worth wiggling through the crowds to get to 17th Avenue, where D'Leon will perform. He's the real deal, a born salsero with a beaming smile and a killer band.

Salsa is not the only attraction -- groups such as Yerba Buena, Bacilos, and Locos Por Juana will be showcasing the eclectic sound of new Latin America. The groove is a funky mélange of salsa and hip-hop and rock and roll.

No matter your musical taste, the real taste of Calle Ocho lingers in the myriad food booths, where you'll find Colombian empanadas, arroz con gandules, churrasco steaks, and corn all washed down with a cold guarapo or beer. --By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

The street fest opens at 11:00 a.m. Admission is free. Call 305-644-8888. Choice Words

Baby Talk

MON 3/15

Don't be fooled by the multitude of gals and that one guy enjoying a dainty repast in the courtyard of Books & Books (265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). The subject to be discussed over tea, sandwiches, and scones is serious business for all women. Special guest Alexander Sanger, grandson of reproductive rights activist and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, will be doing the talking about his fearless granny's turn-of-the-century crusade and the reproductive freedom dilemmas women face in today's ultraconservative political climate. A lawyer, reproductive rights leader, and author, Sanger posits that the pro-choice movement has become stagnant and argues that it needs to reassess and retool its strategies in order to thrive in the political arena. His recently released book, Beyond Choice: Reproductive Freedom in the 21st Century, details a specific plan of action to ensure that the pro-choice movement doesn't lose the hard-fought gains of the past. A novel idea Sanger mentions: Include men, one vital half of the parenthood equation, in the dialogue. Tea and talk run from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $25 per person; $40 for two. Call 305-285-5532 for reservations. -- By Nina KormanPride of Place

Commemorate our county

SAT 3/13

Bigger and better, Dade Heritage Days -- the annual array of events celebrating South Florida's history, environment, and architecture -- is upon us again. Presented by the preservation organization Dade Heritage Trust, the extravaganza began on March 1 and runs through the end of April. Many journeys on the water, especially today's 10:00 a.m. Miami River Boat Tour with historian Paul George, coincide with the theme Harboring History: Miami's Maritime Heritage, but opportunities for exploration on dry land abound as well. Also at 10:00 a.m. the preservationists who call themselves the Villagers lead a trek through back yard gardens in the city of Pinecrest, and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. a street fair will go on in the area where Bahamians first settled in Coconut Grove (Charles Avenue, between Hibiscus Street and Main Highway). The boat tour costs $37; the garden excursion costs $20. Admission to the street fair is free. Call 305-358-9572 or see www.dadeheritagetrust.org for a complete schedule of events. -- By Nina Korman

Hard Ass P.E. Class

SAT 3/13 Naked bikram yoga, Tae-Bo, Zumba, Jazzercise, spinning. Like the sweat of a determined Stairmaster buff, the fitness trends just keep on coming. With the advent of PowerPlay P.E. classes, a burgeoning idea on South Beach, it seems the hardbody masses have come full circle. Instead of strapping on gravity boots or wielding ski posts in the Florida swelter, the PowerPlayers will be doing jumping jacks, windmills, and lunges elementary school-style. "Recapture the fun and simplicity of elementary school P.E." boasts the PowerPlay press release. Imagine dodge ball on the beach -- wouldn't that be a blast? How about macarena pushups or relay races? The girls versus the boys! Wahoo! Another bonus, kids, with this P.E. class is that you probably won't have to sit on the sidelines if you're not "dressed out." PowerPlay meets every Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at 10th Street Beach, Miami Beach. Admission is $7 for beginners. Call 305-532-1141. -- By Juan Carlos Rodriguez

 
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