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Exploring the Culture of Little Havana

A  Learning Community Project (School of Education, the College of Arts and Science and Eaton Residential College, University of Miami)

The Celebrities on the Walk of Fame

Since the start of the "Calle Ocho Walk of Fame" in 1988, more than 20 celebrities have been honored by receiving stars. Yet, not all 20 were Cuban celebrities. This has sparked controversy and violence in Little Havana. Members of the community and local government officials have argued about who should be given stars. To resolve this problem a selection committee was formed. These people still could not please everyone with their choices because there were so many opposing viewpoints within the community. Some people feel that only famous people that have some relation with South Florida should be honored. They want to include Hispanics and African American celebrities who have ties within the community and who have roots in or around the Miami area.

Jesus Sanchez, a customer at one of the shops on Calle Ocho said, in 1996, "It doesn't matter if they're Cuban or Mexican or American. As long as they have talent and vocation" (Menendez 2). On the other hand, Spanish language radio announcer Alberto Gonzalez of WRHC-AM said, "We Cubans may not own all of Miami, but we do [own] Calle Ocho" ("Walk" 2B). He said this during the controversy in 1989 over the inclusion, in the walk of fame, of Spanish singer Raphael, the first non-Cuban to receive a star. Raphael was the fifth person to be honored with a star despite the protests of local community members.

Since the Raphael incident, the controversy has subsided; however, there are still those who believe that the "Calle Ocho Walk of Fame" should only be for Cuban stars. Franco and Rodriguez, the two men who revived the project, have shown that Latin stars are not the only ones who need to apply. In 1995, they were trying to get Sylvester Stallone a star.

The issue of whether the "Calle Ocho Walk of Fame" should be for Latinos only continued in 1997 when Enrique Iglesias was selected for a star, but Dr. Ferdie Pacheco was denied the honor. The furor revolved around the fact that Iglesias was just starting out as a singer while Pacheco already had international recognition due to his career as one of the world's foremost boxing authorities, a painter of some renown, and author of eight books.

Most of the celebrities that have stars on Calle Ocho are partly, if not 100%, Hispanic. Not all of them are Cuban. The following is a list of the 27 celebrities in entertainment, the media, and the arts who have been given stars as of August 1996. Cristina Saralegui (TV talk show host), Betty Pino (radio DJ), Thalia (soap opera actress and singer), Samy (hair stylist), Ednita Nazario (singer), Martha Flores (radio commentator), Roberto Carlos (singer), Roberto Duran (boxer), Charityn (TV celebrity), Raul Velasco (TV host), Fernando Albuerne (singer), Maria Conchita Alonso (actress), Raphael (singer), Roberto Ledesma (singer), Celia Cruz (singer), Lissette (singer), Olga Guillot (singer), Julio Iglesias (singer), Gloria Estefan (singer), Rocio Jurado (singer), Willy Chirino (composer and singer), Agustin Lara (composer), Ernesto Lecuona (composer), Libertad Lamarque (actress), Pedro Vargas (singer), and Blanquita Amaro (singer).

Those who received stars in 1997 include: Emilio Estefan in March (music mogul), Jorge Porcel in April (Argentine comedian), Selena in May (Tejano singer), Luis Miguel in June (Mexican pop singer), Tito Puente in July (band leader, percussionist), Juan Gabriel in August (Mexican singer/songwriter), Jose Jose in September (Mexican singer), Enrique Iglesias in October (singer), Marco Antonio Solis in November (Mexican singer), and Sylvester Stallone in December (actor). Andy Garcia and Madonna are being considered for receiving stars during this year or in the near future.

All of these celebrities were chosen because of their talent and ties to South Florida. Now their names will be embedded in the culture of Little Havana forever.

Karen Hochman

Works Cited

Burch, Audra D.S. "You Can wish Upon a Star (But You Can't Get One): List of Names Keep Growing on Folksy Stretch on Calle Ocho." Miami Herald 17 Feb. 1997: 1C.

Chardy, Alfonso. "Star Struck." Miami Herald 28 Aug. 1998: 1B."He Deserves a Calle Ocho Star." Miami Herald 24 Feb. 1997: 12A.

"Inexcusable Vandalism." Miami Herald 7 Dec. 1991: 28A.

"Little Havana." Miami Herald 20 Sept. 1998: Special Section.

Menendez, Ana. "Stars May Shine Again on Calle Ocho Sidewalk." Miami Herald 21 May 1995: 2B.

"Walk of Fame Gets 1st Non-Cuban Artist." Miami Herald 13 Oct. 1989: 2B.