Heritage Celebrations

By: Hilda Mitrani

You don't have to speak Spanish to enjoy Florida's Hispanic culture and Latin flavors.

Whether it’s the Latin Festival in Pensacola, where Florida’s Spanish influence began, or the Calle Ocho Festival in Miami, the nation’s largest Hispanic-themed event, you don’t have to go far to find the perfect fête to celebrate with your family.

Calle Ocho Festival, Miami

Part of the popular Carnaval Miami 10-day season at the end of February and early March, this festival is the fabulous finale and attracts more than a million people who fill blocks of Miami’s Little Havana area. Continuous live music provides the rhythm for lots of fancy footwork. The KidzZone is a blast with magicians, sports teams and clowns. Plus there are vendors selling mouth-watering dishes, cultural displays and workshops. This over-the-top celebration is known as the largest street festival on Earth.

More Miami and the Keys: Cuba Nostalgia is held each spring in Miami around May 20, the date of Cuba’s independence from Spain. A coast-to-coast conga line is the signature event during Key West’s Cuban American Heritage Festival.

Conga Caliente, Tampa

Held in Tampa's Al Lopez Park, this is one of Tampa's premier festivals. Celebrating Hispanic arts and cultures from around the world, it features a variety of national and international performers. This free event is also family-friendly, including a main stage, youth area and vendors selling traditional ethnic foods. Adults will enjoy the beer garden and traditional cigars.

More Tampa: The Festival del Sabor in September at Centennial Park features a popular Latin recipe contest and cook-off. In November, many attend the Cigar Heritage Festival for the rich ambiance and flavors of Ybor City.

Latin Festival, Pensacola

Pensacola is where Florida was first settled, and the Fiesta of Five Flags celebrates the founding of Pensacola. A 10-day heritage celebration known as Fiesta Days, held the first two weeks in June, is one of the oldest and largest heritage festivals in the State of Florida. The Fiesta Days Celebration (held on May 31 in 2012) kicks off the festivities; the 2012 event was the 63rd annual.

Viva Osceola Festival Latino, Kissimmee

One of the largest Hispanic festivals in Central Florida, Viva Osceola is known for its fun atmosphere, food and entertainment for families. Watch for it in early October. A beer garden is a popular element for the adults, while arts and crafts and kids’ activities go on all afternoon.

I plan on dancing my way through the state. How about you?

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