Over 18 years ago on May 25, 2000 Viernes Culturales debuted in Little Havana on the last Friday Night of the month and the neighborhood has never been the same. Born from a City of Miami Planning Department Study and a recommendation from the Little Havana Neighborhood Planning Program along with the support of the Miami City Commission, Viernes Culturales or Cultural Fridays has helped bring back life and prosperity to a community that desperately needed it. The idea was to create an event that highlighted the local businesses and talent giving them an avenue to promote themselves and further expand the cultural diversity in art, dance, music and theater to name a few. It was an instant success drawing over 2000 people on that first night.
Since then on the last Friday of the month like clockwork, businesses and artists alike have taken to the streets to welcome the throngs of local visitors and tourists looking not only to learn about the local “Little Havana” life but have a great time in the process. Thanks in large part to organizers such as local business man and “Ball and Chain” owner Bill Fuller, the area slowly transformed from a dilapidated forgotten street to vibrant and prospering neighborhood.
Fast forward 18 years to last month where Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo and his staff applied for a permit to host their own event on the same night as Viernes Culturales. Even though Mr. Carollo is currently involved in a bitter conflict with Mr. Fuller over many items including code enforcement and permitting, he insists the driving force for his event is to bring back pride and joy to Little Havana. The Carollo team has secured permits for 2 street events a month starting in December of this year.
On December 3rd “Little Havana Nights” debuted next to the famous Domino Park of Little Havana to much expectation and fanfare. The street was filled with over 1,500 people who enjoyed the local art scene while eating delicious Little Havana cuisine.The bash included a host of local celebrities and politicians who came out to show their support for the community and the event. MC’d by Jose Carlucho of America TeVe, one of the events sponsors, the night showcased local talent such as Mari Trini, Ni Fu Ni Fa and Noelia, the unveiling of the official flag of Little Havana, and a heartwarming speech by Mr. 305 himself “Pitbull’, who was introduced by Mr. Carollo alongside Mayor Suarez and Mayor Gimenez as the new “Mayor of Little Havana”. He then went on to say how without Miami and Little Havana specifically there would be no Pitbull.
Being painted into a corner Viernes Culturales took the high road and moved their event to the third Thursday of the month giving Little Havana now 3 events instead of 1! Whether you are on Team Viernes or Team Carollo we can all agree that the real winners are the people and business of Little Havana. So gather the family and enjoy the party!
Jesus D. Rodriguez