Little Havana rises with the cock. Sunlight gleams off her concrete hips. She revels in her hot and sticky wetness. As fresh, juicy papaya scents float on palm tree breezes, she burns a sacred herb and swallows a cafecito with a piece of buttered toast.
Today is her birthday, and soon 2 million feet, 20 million fingers and toes, and 32 million teeth will dance across and sink into her tantalizing, head-turning flesh. The flood of well-wishers will roll in across the flatlands of Dade's colonias. Soon she'll be awash in cubanos, catrachos, boricuas, Haitians, Brazilians, and Jamaicans. Guajiras, rockeros, and salseros will all converge for the biggest street party in the world. And to celebrate Florida's 500th year, 500 gallons of sangria will flow freely at Calle Ocho 2013.
Miami's own Ed Calle, the King of Calle Ocho, says of his role: "I came to this city from Venezuela via Spain, but I'm a proud member of the community, a product of the public school system, I went to UM, and I teach at Miami Dade College. I'm flattered and humbled to be counted among the people who are the who's who of Hispanics and Latinos in music, and I'm really honored and very, very thankful for this recognition."
Calle Ocho 2013
Calle Ocho 2013: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the corner of SW Eighth Street and 10th Avenue, Miami. Admission is free. Visit carnavalmiami.com.
He's one of the country's premier sax men and has played and recorded with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jon Secada, and Rihanna. We linked up with Calle to get his insight on each of this year's stages and the numerous memories they trigger from the Carnaval Miamis of his past.
Power 96 Stage, Eighth Avenue. "I've been attending and performing at Calle Ocho since I was a little kid, since the very beginning. Going back 35 years, I was about 16 or 17 playing with artists onstage at the festival, and I've continued to do so ever since. This stage features performances by B Smyth, Mr. Vegas, and John Heart, and it represents the energy of Calle Ocho."
Mr. 305 Presents United Nations at the Pitbull Stage, 12th Avenue North. "Cuban freedom flows this way. Our city is a very magical place with so many wonderful cultures that all learn from each other and live together. Pitbull is a worldwide ambassador for the city, but he stays grounded here too. This stage features performances by Pitbull's own recording artists. To me it represents a world of music from right here in Miami."
Folkloric Stage, 13th Avenue North. "Music here is very versatile. People who live, dance, and play here have to know claves, swing, twos and fours, and island music. We don't have the luxury of living in a bubble. We have the benefit of being surrounded by opportunity and being in the middle of the Caribbean. This stage features Colombia cumbiamba, la sabrosa, and groups from Panama, Bolivia, and Peru. For me this represents the down-home, the roots of all of us, the native sounds we keep alive and honor."
WEPA FM, 13th Court South. "I'm a huge fan of what Kiwanis [the fest's organizer] does. They represent the city in a beautiful way, in all its facets. Freestyle music really broke in Miami, here, and New York with the Puerto Ricans. This stage features performances by Johnny O, Nasty Boyz, Nyasia, Company B, Ray Guell, Coro, and Shannon, and Latin music by Tony De Leon, Kinto Elemento, Fusion 4, Carlos Orta, Ricky C, and Latin Flvr. For this stage, I think of fresh music and self-expression."
Chivas Regal Open House, 17th Avenue North. "Calle Ocho is a wonderful musical opportunity. There's nowhere else in the world that you have this many people listening to all these kinds of music all together in this kind of atmosphere. This stage features Hansel y Raúl, Carlos Oliva y los Sobrinos del Juez, and Willy Chirino. This represents the traditional groove-masters. The masters of the suave."
Mega 94.9, 19th Avenue North. "It's amazing to be a member of this musical fraternity in Miami. I've worked with almost everybody, from Machito to Sandoval, the college groups, and so many giants of Latin music, like Cachao. I feel blessed to say that and to live that. This stage features Elvis Crespo, Angel y Khriz, Plan B, Grupo Treo, Alexis y Fido, El Juancho, Maffio, and Los Illegales. This is the new generation of Latin music, the evolution of Latin music. I love Elvis — he's awesome."
Cubana de Televisión, Tenth Road. "This is such a family-oriented environment. I get to see and hug and talk and shake hands with friends, teachers, fans, and fellow musicians. This stage features Los Fonomemecos, Michel Calvo y Su Power Ban, Timba Live, Malena Burke, Issac Delgado, La India, and Amaury Gutiérrez. It represents melody meeting harmony meeting rhythm."
Sears and Kmart, 22 Avenue South. "It's an eclectic blend of every sound of the city, from Afro-Cuban funk to West Coast Latin jazz. This stage features Conjunto Tropicana and Electric Piquete. This represents the electric Latin, the digital Latin side, blending technology and tumbadoras, electronics con el cuero, the computer with the leather on the drum."
Coca-Cola, 22nd Avenue North. "The talent and energy here from the islands is, of course, tremendous. Carnaval celebrates this community and its evolution over time. This stage features Frankie Ruiz Jr., Brenda K. Starr, Eddie Santiago, Valien T, Sonus, Dyland y Lenny, Juan Magan, and DJ Roco-Mix. This represents the melting pot, 21st-century America, and the future of the country."
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Telemundo 51, Pep Boys Lot. "There is a wonderful blend of incredible virtuosity and romanticism here that makes the music extra-special. But it is the energy of the crowd that takes it to the next level. This stage features Pichaco, Sammy, Arsenilli, Davon, Victoria, Bersachi, Willie Panama, Andy Pita, Hom, Ambar, Arlin, Juan Esteban, Widy, Carlos Faroy, Barbara Ruiz, Ulanito, Melina Almodóvar, Lefty Perez, Cabas, Carlos Manuel, Eri White, Farruko, Fito Blanko, and Oro Solido. This is gonna be party town."
Miami Herald Stage, 24th Avenue North. "I was selected king of this year's festival by a committee of my peers, but I was definitely caught by surprise when they called me on Valentine's Day and told me. My jaw dropped. I was very surprised. This stage features Conjunto Progreso and represents tradition — Havana transplanted to Miami. This is a band that really makes it Little Havana."
Winn-Dixie Family Fun Zone, El Dorado Parking Lot. "Everybody knows I love to eat. Just look at me. This stage features Chef Pepín and his cooking demonstrations. He and I are good friends, and I'm a fan of food, so I'm a fan of Chef Pepín. This is where I'm gonna stop first, in the middle, and at the end of the day."
Univision, 27th Avenue East. "There's a full-day's lineup of performances and me with an orchestra as the headliner. It's the community stage, and Univision is a force in our community and the world. I worked there for many years. I'm proud of the work they're doing, and it shows the growth in Hispanic America. They just overtook ABC in the national ratings. These folks are serious. This stage is where salsa meets jazz. To me it's a highlight of the year."