It feels like only yesterday that we were shaking our hips with Gloria Estefan in a record-breaking 119,969-person conga line at Calle Ocho. But that was March of 1988, Reagan was still in office, and Miami New Times was only a fortnightly newspaper, not the massive multimedia empire that it is today.
While a lot has changed over the years — the political landscape, New Times' glossy cover, Gloria Estefan's celebrity — Calle Ocho is still America's largest street party, with over a million attendees. It's a multinational celebration of food, art, and culture hosted each year by an enormous crossover star.
Historically, folks like Desi Arnaz, Jose Luis "El Puma" Rodriguez, and Hansel y Raul have served as king of Calle Ocho. Local favorites including Gloria Estefan, Willy Chirino, and Arturo Sandoval have also held court. And in 2010, Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull, took the throne.
Calle Ocho 2012: With performances by Pitbull, Jencarlos Canela, Hansel y Raul, Flo Rida, Tony Dize, and many others. 11 a.m. Sunday, March 11, on SW Eighth Street between 12th and 27th avenues, Miami; 305-644-8888; carnavalmiami.com. Admission is free.
This year, Cuban-American Miami native Jencarlos Canela will oversee the Calle Ocho kingdom. The 23-year-old singer and actor will add his name to the festival's illustrious list of grand marshals, performing live on two of the festival's 11 stages.
Yes, 11. Forget about that tiki-tiki WMC nonsense and get lost en lo major de salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, Top 40, y country. Whether you're black, white, Hispanic, whatever, there is something for you at Calle Ocho.
Now fuel up on cafecitos and check out our Calle Ocho guide.
Mega 94.9 Advance Auto Stage. At SW 11th Avenue. Bro, remember when 94.9 FM played rock 'n' roll? That was such crap. It's so much better now that it's El Sonido Joven de South Florida por que ese ruido de Nirvana y Radiohead was really overrated. How can people listen to that shit, guy? So make sure to catch Calle Ocho appearances by listener favorites El Gato y Patty and Ozzi Muniz, as well as performances by Elijah King and Dyland y Lenny at the Zeta Mega 94.9 stage.
Kiss Country Stage. At SW 12th Avenue (north). David Ray is back on the Kiss Country stage this year peppering Calle Ocho with a little twang. For all y'all cowboys and cowgirls, "South Florida's Country Station" is setting up shop on 12th Avenue and plans to country-rock you all day long.
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América Tevé Stage. At SW 12th Avenue (south). Whoa, SW 12th Avenue and Eighth Street may be the most diverse intersection at this year's Calle Ocho. In one corner, Kiss Country. In the other corner, Hansel y Raul, "Caballo Viejo" singer Roberto Torres, and Los 3 de la Habana. But that's the beauty of Calle Ocho — diversity. Especially this year with its "One World" initiative, a parade of flags symbolizing global unity.
Power 96 Stage. At SW 17th Avenue. It's not Calle Ocho until Power 96 drops some booty bass. "Miami's Party Station" is the very embodiment of this city — loud, sexy, and a little scandalous. This year, Fat Joe, Flo Rida, and Sensato will be bum-rushing Power 96's 17th Avenue stage. We dare y'all to keep it PG-13.
Telemundo 51 Stage. At SW 10th Street Road. So it's not on Eighth Street per se. But that doesn't mean Telemundo 51 skimped on talent. Miami New Times favorites Los Primeros and Pichaco y su orquesta are just some of the acts sharing the stage with Calle Ocho King Jencarlos Canela. Want to be on TV? Well, Telemundo will undoubtedly air several taped and live segments from this year's festival. So make sure to wear something that makes you stand out in the crowd. Over a million people will be battling for that closeup.
Coca-Cola Stage. At SW 22nd Avenue (north). After shaking your ass at the Power 96 stage, dancing to Hansel y Raul's "Pregones del Ayer" at the America Teve spot, and getting down with David Ray and Kiss Country, you're going to need a caffeine boost. Sure, you could wait in line for a Cuban coffee, but that'll take days. Instead, swing by the Coca-Cola setup for a carbonated pick-me-up. We hear there's going to be a huge igloo giving out fizzy refreshments.
Monster Energy Drink Stage. At SW 22nd Avenue (South). What has 81 grams of sugar and 300 calories? A can of Monster Energy Drink. This stuff's gonna help you power through the day. Visit the Monster Energy stage opposite the Coca-Cola spot on Calle Ocho for a chance to check out some gnarly Pro BMX riders tearing shit up.
Planet Pit MegaStage. At SW 23rd Avenue. Lil Chico Pitbull takes over the Pep Boys parking lot and goes hard for his Miami peeps. As he's done for several years, Armando Christian Perez will bring his Mr. Worldwide flavor to his very own backyard, La Saguesera de Miami-Dade Condado.
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The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald Stage. At SW 23rd Avenue. We don't know too many details. But rumor has it that the "hottest DJs" are scheduled to soundtrack the Herald stage all day. Tiesto? Doubtful. Skrillex? No chance. Irie? Now that's a possibility.
Winn-Dixie Family Fun Zone. At SW 25th Avenue. Escape the chusmeria for a minute and chill out in the family fun zone. Entertain la familia entera with games, prizes, and samples of Trident. Shit, even Miami's favorite culinary celebrity, Chef Pepin, is going to be there.
Univision 23 Stage. At SW 27th Avenue. Every festival has a main stage and Calle Ocho's Univision spot attracts the biggest names and largest crowds. For this year's festival, "Tu Canal 23" has an incredible, star-studded lineup of musicians eager to rip the proverbial tits off Miami-Dade County and prove that we are "One World." Puerto Rican reggaetonero Tony Dize, Raymond Castellon, and Jossie Cordoba are just three of the artists featured on the Univision stage. But perhaps the biggest star of all is this year's king, Jencarlos Canela.
¡Oye, es tiempo para la conga en la calle!