Calle Ocho 101: Hispanic Cultures and Stereotypes

Calle Ocho is a time to be proud of your Hispanic culture. Many revelers wear their country's colors -- a popular fashion statement is draping your nation's flag over your shoulder -- but there still can be confusion. After all, the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags are nearly identical -- only the color scheme is reversed, as are the Honduran, Nicaraguan, Argentine, and several other similar flags.

So navigating the festival can get complicated -- and we don't mean physically (it's a straight shot down SW Eighth Street between 12th and 27th avenue). We mean distinguishing one Hispanic nationality from another. Sure, to some folks, all Latinos look alike (that's the same crew that thinks all Asians and all African-Americans look the same). But whether you are a local or came from out of town to visit Calle Ocho, you'll need help distinguishing one Latino from another.


For some ignoramuses, every Hispanic in Miami represents a Cuban. But we

know that's not the case. One way to isolate the throngs of Cubans

versus non-Cubans is to start an impromptu chat of Cuba Libre and see

who joins. Also, though they are popular all over, guayaberas are

most popular among Cubans, so if you see some old-timer donning one, holding a stogy in his mouth, and playing dominoes, chances are you've run into

an expatriate or Castro spy. Finally, try wearing a Che Guevara

T-shirt. The first ten people to punch you in the face will be Cuban.

There's a good chance the people salsa-dancing are Cuban because that dance

originated on the island.


If you survive being punched for your Che T-shirt, the

next ten people to give you a knowing sign of approval will be

Argentines. Ernest "Che" Guevara was a revolutionary born in Argentina, so he's their native son in spite of being cast as merciless

murderer by Cubans. Argentines have a funny accent, are known to be

arrogant, and are famous for their parrilla (barbecue). Their dance is the

tango, but we don't think you'll be seeing too much of that at Calle



Nicas, for short, are also very populous in Miami -- as evidenced by those

tasty Fritanga restaurants that seem to be on virtually every corner of

Little Havana. Though it's been a couple of decades since the

Iran-Contra scandal rocked this country, a good way to see if somebody

is from Nicaragua is to accuse them of being a Sandinista, though you better watch your back after that.

Puerto Ricans

Slangily referred to as Boricuas, Puerto Ricans are not as widespread in

Miami as they are in, say, New York. But what they lack in numbers,

they make up for in pride and poor pronunciation of their v's and r's. If you hear somebody saying, "Nueba Yol," instead of Nueva York,

chances are you've come face-to-face with a Boricua.


They speak Portuguese, so you can usually differentiate them that way.

But you'll probably suffer some temporary deafness at Calle Ocho on

account of all the concerts, so you'll need another way to distinguish them.

Try this: Throw a soccer ball into the crowd. The person who comes out

of the pack balancing it on their head or foot is probably a Brazilian

(after all, Brazil has won five World Cups, more than any other country).

Also, Speedos are popular on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. Not that you

should be seeing any at Calle Ocho, but we're just sayin'.


We'll resist the temptation to make some kind of inappropriate drug

reference (Cocaine Cowboys notwithstanding), but if you want to distinguish

Colombians from the rest of the pack, play some cumbia and see who

dances. Also, arepas are a traditional Colombian food, so they'll have

one in their hands, although so will everybody else -- arepas are that good.


Yell, "D-o-m-i-n-i-c-a-n-o," and your Dominican friends will holla back at

you. Plus, if throwing a soccer ball will probably bring out the

Brazilians, doing the same with a baseball will probably separate the

Dominicans (A-Rod, Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, all Dominicans), although

Cubans might dispute this identifier. Merengue is a Dominican dance, so

look for them to be hip-swiveling to that repetitive, hypnotic beat.


Venezuelan women are known for their beauty. They've won

the Miss Universe pageant plenty of times and have among the highest

rates of cosmetic surgery in the world. If you see a hot Latina

who is surgically enhanced, she could be Venezuelan, although those

numbers are skewed in Miami. Also, Miami Venezuelans are not big fans of President Hugo Chávez. Throw out some kind of Chávez rant

and see who joins.

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Sebastian del Mármol