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LGBT Latino Festival Gay8 Debuts in Miami's Little Havana

One can never have enough LGBTQ events in a city like Miami. Not only are we uniquely prideful, but we're also heavy on the Hispanic. Whereas Latinos have the annual Calle Ocho festival, gay Latinos now have Gay8 (or GayOcho!). 

The inaugural Latino LGBTQ art, music, and food street festival will take place this weekend in historic Little Havana. The daylong event will be filled to the brim with wild entertainment, and it’s free! A few things to pique your interest: concerts by Palo, Spam Allstars, Lucy Grau, and Suénalo on the main stage; 12 pop-up artists roaming throughout the fest; historic walking tours every half-hour; food spots and art galleries; and a grand finale comparsa that will take place from 15th to 17th avenues as a closing act.

On top of all that, two big parties are tossed into the mix: Macho by Bear Nation at the Tower Theater, and Girl Central Tea Dance by iCandee at Club Havana Bar & Lounge. Both will have a DJ and are free to attend (though you can score drinks all day with the $100 VIP pass). Also, at the Tower Theater, there'll be a mini film festival of queer films presented in collaboration with the Miami International Film Festival, including La Partida, My Straight Son, Xenia, Tab Hunter Confidential, Yossi, and Stranger by the Lake.

“For a long time, I’ve noticed a disconnect in South Florida between many groups of people. We are often referred to as a 'salad' — a euphemism for a pretty segregated community. As a Latino LGBT man, I particularly noticed a divide between Spanish-dominant LGBT people and the mainstream LGBT community,” says Damian Pardo, one of the festival organizers. “Creating connection — whether it be between and among the LGBT community or the community at large — became a calling, and we thought a fun and indirect way to promote connection could be a street festival in a historic neighborhood.”

Joe Cardona, another organizer, echoes that sentiment of coming together: “Miami is one of the most ethnically and racially diverse cities in the country, and yet it is also one of the most segregated. The idea for the Gay8 Festival was born from the concept of connectivity... bringing communities together that don't often have the opportunity to share an experience. I am not gay, but I am an ally of equality, and if we are going to begin to break down some of this city's barriers, then we have to put forth content that will promote the concept of connectivity.”

And a day of celebration would be nothing without a little recognition in the form of an awards ceremony. The 2016 honorees for the Pa’Lante Awards are H.T. Smith, Julia Dawson, Louis Canales, and Richard Gonzalez, all of whom were selected based on the impact of their efforts as well as the length of their service.

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Including these individuals is part of the commitment to inclusiveness, and as Cardona explains, “We have tried very hard to make everyone a part of our festival. Our tag line reads, ‘Welcoming All,’ and that has become our mantra. Someone asked me the other day if this was a ‘pride’ event, and I said that we certainly were — in that if you are a proud person regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, etc., this festival is for you.”

Pardo elaborates that everyone in the LGBTQ community can find themselves “represented everywhere in Gay8 Festival: from our website to our video to our offerings the day of the festival. In fact, we made a strong commitment of inclusion at every level. Even so, because diversity can be so expansive and because at times that goal can become a tradeoff with other goals like cost or quality, the objective can be a real challenge. We will always continue prioritizing diversity to the maximum extent possible.”

As for the future, now that the inaugural edition of the fest is about to kick off with a bang, Cardona and Pardo have plenty of ideas and things in the works for next year. As thrilled as they are about the talent they have onstage this year, the two hope to have even more musicians and bands next time. 

Gay8 Festival
11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, January 17, in Little Havana. Visit gay8festival.com.

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