Largest Hispanic LGBTQ Festival In U.S. Kicks Off on Nov. 8 in Little Havana

Festival scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 with new components, including international human rights symposium

Miami, FL – Organizers of the Gay8 (GayOcho) Festival will gather with hosts and sponsors to celebrate the 2019 Gay8 Festival Kick-off on Thursday, Nov. 8, 6 PM at Casa Juancho in Little Havana. The festival will return for its 4th consecutive year on Sunday, February 17, 2019 during President’s Day weekend. The largest of it’s kind in the U.S., attendance for 2019 is slated to surpass the 60,000 that turned out in 2018. Revelers will again enjoy a one-of-kind experience that welcomes all in the LGBTQ community, their allies, and the rich, vibrant Hispanic and Latino communities in South Florida and beyond.

“We originally set out to create an event that brought the different South Florida communities together and the results speak for themselves,” said festival co-founder Damian Pardo. “Gay8 Festival is now the undisputed largest Hispanic LQBTQ event in the U.S.”

Gay8 Festival will continue to feature a number of events surrounding the street festival – including dance parties, food tastings, free film showcase, cigar tastings, a doggie village and roaming performers – while also adding an LGBTQ international human rights symposium at the University of Miami. “Given the current climate faced by the LGBTQ community in some parts of the Americas, we felt it was important to provide a forum for leading human rights activist from South Florida, Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada to convene, share experiences and organize,” explained symposium organizer Lynare Robbins.

Leading up to the festival, the 4Ward Gala will be take place on Feb. 13 at the Bacardi headquarters in Coral Gables. The event will be the setting for the 2019 Pa’Lante Awards Ceremony, where pioneers who have demonstrated outstanding civic engagement will be honored.

New at this year’s festival is a historic collaboration between Stonewall National Museum & Archives and the National Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, where both will explore the plight of the LGBTQ community in Cuba and in exile.

For more information and tickets visit

Who: 4Ward Miami and Gay8Festival What: 2019 Gay8 Festival Kick-off

When: Thursday, November 8, 2018, 6 PM

Where: Casa Juancho, 2436 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135

Why: Gay8 Festival aims to promote civic engagement Miami’s diverse communities while blending all of South Florida’s delights into one gigantic block party. By connecting South Floridians, Gay8 Festival looks to ignite opportunities by bringing people together through food, music, art and fun.

To download logos and photos visit:


2018 Photo Galleries & Coverage

Miami Gay Blog
• Pa’Lante Awards
• Gay8 Festival

Steve Rothaus’ LGBTQ South Florida
• Gay8 Festival

Mark’s List
• Gay8 Festival

South Florida Gay News
• Pa’Lante Awards Honor Immigrant Rights Activists
• Gay8 Festival Shining a Light on the ‘L’ in LGBT

Miami New Times
• Gay8 Festival 2018 Celebrates Hispanic Queer Culture on Calle Ocho

NBC 6 Pride
• Thousands Party at Gay8 Festival in Miami’s Little Havana

Sunday, February 18th Little Havana Will Host the Third Annual Gay8 Festival

The free festival will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Calle Ocho,
from 14th Avenue to 17th Avenue
This year, the Gay8 (GayOcho) Festival will feature sensational live music highlighted by Sonlokos and Lucy Grau, the fabulous Marytrini, popular DJ’s SINNA-G, Alex Ramos, A.J. Ready, D.J. Citizen Jane, Guy DeGiacinto, Alex Ferbeyre and D.J. Otto, great food at the Best Miami Sandwich Competition hosted by the Burger Beast, art exhibits by the Stonewall National Museum and Archives and The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora (“The Cuban”), a doggie village with an amazing dog obstacle course, and foreign LGBTQ-themed films sponsored and curated by the OUTshine Film Festival and the Miami Film Festival, the hottest dance parties in Miami at Girl Central and Macho, guided tours of Little Havana, fashion shows (both human and doggie), fun merchant booths and a thought provoking literary event Tertulia hosted by the Miami International Book Fair — And it’s all FREE.
“The Festival which drew approximately 17,000 guests year one and nearly doubled its attendance year two with 30,000+ guests, is a uniquely South Florida experience,” comments festival co-founder Joe Cardona. “Diverse people come from all corners of South Florida to experience Gay8. It’s a day when the LGBTQ community hosts everyone for a celebration of living.”
The festival, which is free and open to the pubic, draws corporate support as well as a community fundraiser, the Pa’Lante Awards, which each year honors South Florida individuals who make our community a better place to live.
Each year the Pa’Lante Awards highlights a specific theme – this year it’s immigration. The festival donates 10% of it’s net profits from the Pa’Lante fundraiser to a local charity which is tied to the theme. This year the fund recipient of our award is the immigrant resource organization WeCount! Please find more info on the Pa’Lante Awards and our 2018 award recipients on the Gay8 Festival website. #LiveYourStoryHere

El Domingo 18 de Febrero, Little Havana Acogerá el Tercer Festival Anual de Gay8

El festival gratuito sera de 11 a.m. a 10 p.m. en la Calle Ocho,
desde la avenida 14 hasta la avenida 17
Este año el festival contará con sensacional música en vivo resaltada por Sonlokos y Lucy Grau, la fabulosa Marytrini, DJ populares Sinna-G, Alex Ramos, AJ Ready, DJ Citizen Jane, Guy DeGiacinto, Alex Ferbeyre y DJ Otto; buena comida en el Concurso “Best Miami Sandwich” organizado por el Burger Beast, exposiciones de arte por el Museo y Archivo Nacional Stonewall y el Museo Americano de la Diáspora Cubana, una sección para sus mascotas (con una increíble pista de obstáculos para perros), películas extranjeras (temáticas LGBT) patrocinadas y seleccionadas por el Festival de Cine Outshine y el Festival de Cine de Miami, las mejores fiestas de baile de Miami en Girl Central y Macho, tours guiadas por la Pequeña Habana, desfiles de moda (tanto para humanos como para perritos), puestos de mercaderes divertidos y un excelente evento literario (Tertulia) organizado por la Feria Internacional del Libro de Miami — Y todo es GRATUITO.
“El Festival que atrajo aproximadamente 17,000 invitados el primer año y casi duplicó su asistencia el segundo año con más de 30,000 personas, es una experiencia única en Miami”, comenta el cofundador del festival Joe Cardona. “Tendrás dificultad para encontrar el nivel de diversidad que experimentaras en Gay8. Es un día en que la comunidad LGBT acoge a todos para una celebración de la vida”.
El festival, gratuito y abierto al público, atrae apoyo corporativo y una recaudación de fondos comunitarios con los Pa’Lante Awards, que cada año rinden homenaje a las personas del sur de la Florida que de esta un mejor lugar para vivir. Cada año, los Premios Pa’Lante destacan un tema específico: este año es inmigración. El festival dona el 10% de sus ganancias netas de la recaudación de fondos Pa’Lante a una organización benéfica local que está vinculada al tema: este año, el destinatario de nuestro premio es la organización de recursos para inmigrantes WeCount. Para más información sobre los Premios Pa’Lante y nuestros ganadores del premio 2018 visite la pagina web del Festival Gay8. #LiveYourStoryHere

2018 Pa’Lante Awards Recognizes Heroes of Immigration

Miami’s businesses, community leaders, and the community at large will come together on February 16, 2018 for the third annual Pa’Lante Awards presented by Gay8 Festival. Gay8 (GayOcho!) is the first Latino LGBT art, music and food street festival in Miami’s historic Little Havana. Pa’Lante Awards represent a recognition and celebration of people that have helped move the South Florida community forward. Individuals are selected based on the impact of their effort as well as the length of their service. “Pa’Lante” is Spanish slang, short for “para adelante,” to push or move forward.

“This year’s Pa’Lante Awards recipients represent our community champions on the front lines of immigration activism” said organizer Damian Pardo. “We hope that by highlighting the efforts of these heroes we can add to the power of their voices and celebrate the Gay8 values of diversity and working together”.

This year’s Pa’Lante awards recipients are:

  • Carlos J. Martinez – From working at an Exxon on Calle Ocho to becoming the Public Defender for Miami-Dade County, Carlos J. Martinez is a home-grown success story and a champion for immigrant rights.
  • Juan Carlos Carabantes – As DACA champion and participant, Juan Carlos Carabantes understands that community knows no borders. His activism stretches from immigration to LGBT rights, and from his home in South Dade to the inside of a jail cell while pressing congress to pass a clean DREAM act.
  • Christina Ponthieux – Ronyde Christina Ponthieux isn’t your ordinary 10-year-old – she’s a Miami Shores Elementary student AND a TPS activist fighting for protection for vulnerable communities. She recently took to the stage during a Miami concert of Arcade Fire in front of thousands to advocate for the extension of temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants.
  • WeCount! – Defending worker and immigrant rights in the Homestead area, WeCount! has worked to build the power of the immigrant community through leadership development, community education, coalition building and campaigns for social change.

The awards will be presented by other prominent community activists, such as Marleine Bastien, Francesca Menes, and Cheryl Little, Esq. Attendees will enjoy a fun-filled night of live music, light bites, and cocktails. Tickets are $100 and are available on the Gay8 Festival website.

For complete information including the full Gay8 Festival schedule of events and sponsorships, visit the Gay8 Festival website here.

WHO: Local businesses and community leaders
WHAT: Pa’Lante Awards presented by Gay8 Festival (GayOcho Festival)
WHERE: CubaOcho Museum & Performing Arts Center (1465 SW 8th St #106, Miami, FL 33135)
WHEN: Friday, February 16, 2018 from 7 PM to 10 PM
WHY: Pa’Lante Awards represent a recognition and celebration of people that have helped move the South Florida community forward. Individuals are selected based on the impact of their effort as well as the length of their service. “Pa’Lante” is Spanish slang, short for “para adelante,” to push or move forward.

By connecting Miamians, Gay8 Festival ignites opportunities by bringing people together through food, music and fun.

Immigrant Resources Organization WeCount!, 2018 Pa’Lante Award Honoree

WeCount! LogoWeCount! was initiated as a program of a social service coalition, WeCare of South Dade, in 2002. In 2006, it became an independent organization with individual memberships.

During the WeCare years, community action teams worked on school and immigration issues. In 2003 and 2004, parent-community teams inspected local schools and won improvements in the physical state of five schools. In 2005, parents organized through WeCount! prevented the principal of West Homestead Elementary School from retaining the test results of one controversial reading test of around 500 students. That year, the immigration action team successfully convinced the Miami-Dade County Commission to pass a resolution supporting driver licenses for undocumented immigrants and organized a community forum with Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart at which he committed to providing leadership in the fight for legalization of undocumented workers and students.

Since 2006, WeCount! has worked to build the power of the immigrant community in the Homestead area through leadership development, community education, coalition building and campaigns for social change. In 2007, it began working with youth from immigrant families. Over the years, it developed a clear focus on defense of immigrant and worker rights.



Immigration Activist Christina Ponthieux, 2018 Pa’Lante Award Honoree

Christina Ponthieux
Christina Ponthieux

Ronyde Christina Ponthieux is a 10-year-old Miami Shores Elementary student and young leader in the Haitian Women of Miami and is now a TPS activist fighting for protection for vulnerable communities. She recorded her own video address to a President Donald Trump not to tear her family apart. She recently took to the stage during a Miami concert of Arcade Fire to advocate for the extension of temporary protected status for Haitian immigrants.


Marlene Bastien
Marleine Bastien, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is the Executive Director of FANM, responsible for oversight of the agency. She has championed the cause of women, children and Haitian families through her dedicated advocacy in the areas of immigration and human rights, HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and domestic violence. Ms. Bastien serves as not only the voice of Haitian women, but as the unofficial spokesperson for the Haitian community at large. She is often quoted in local, national and international media such as the Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and others.

Immigration Activist Juan Carlos Carabantes, 2018 Pa’Lante Award Honoree

Juan Carlos Carabantes
Juan Carlos Carabantes

Juan Carlos Carabantes was born in the central state of Michoacan, Mexico on February of 1995. He came to the United States at just 4 years old through the southern border with his mom and four other siblings. Since then he has lived in Homestead, Florida a town known for its strong immigrant community. He is an undocumented immigrant who benefited from the DACA program that was announced in 2012.

Before that Juan Carlos felt tremendously lonely, without finding other undocumented youth especially those that identify as LGBT, but in 2013 he found he wasn’t alone. Since then Juan Carlos has been organizing to continue awareness about undocumented immigrants, especially those who benefited from the DACA program. For the following 3 years he supported undocumented leadership and organized the community. He participated in a few campaigns to make sure undocumented immigrants and their stories stayed a priority of the national debate; he trained communities on their constitutional rights, raised awareness on undocumented queer youth, disrupted Jeb Bush’s presidential candidate announcement, strategized against the 2016 Trump campaign, took over the New York streets when DACA was repealed on Sept. 5, and participated in a jail strike this December where he spent 6 days in jail on hunger strike to pressure congress to pass a clean DREAM act. Now he is an organizer with The Seed Project, a non-violent organization focused on obtaining dignity, respect, and permanent protection for undocumented youth and paving a path to protect all immigrants in the country. Coming from a family of farmworkers, Juan Carlos’s sacrifice has been rooted in honoring the sacrifice of his parents with the goal of winning permanent protection for his family and his Florida community.


Francesca Menes
Francesca is from Miami’s Little Haiti community. As part of Florida Immigrant Coalition, she has coordinated the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, coordinated a national network campaigning for Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, successfully led the statewide campaign “We Are Florida’s Future” to pass in-state tuition for undocumented students in 2014, developed and implemented a 2014 Voter Engagement Program in 2 counties and 5 cities knocking on over 45,000 doors. She is the Florida Immigrant Coalition representative to various national organizations, including the Black Immigration Network, she also is the co-coordinator of #Rights4ALLinDR.  Francesca has received numerous honors and recognitions, including being name one of the 20 under 40 Emerging Leaders in South Florida by the Miami Herald.

Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez, 2018 Pa’Lante Award Honoree

Carlos J. Martinez
Carlos J. Martinez

Carlos J. Martinez, a native of Cuba, has dedicated his professional life to public service, using his legal talents in service of the poor.

Arriving to Miami from Cuba on a 1969 Freedom Flight, he learned the meaning of hard work and determination at an early age. At 16, Carlos was hired as a car wash attendant at an Exxon station on Calle Ocho. Within three years, Carlos was simultaneously managing six gas stations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. He worked full-time to pay for his undergraduate college education. He attended Miami-Dade College, the University of Texas-Austin and graduated from Florida International University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1985. In 1990, Carlos received his J.D. from the University of Miami.

He was elected public defender in 2008, and re-elected in 2012 and 2016 without opposition. Carlos is the first Cuban-American Public Defender and the only elected Hispanic Public Defender in the U.S. As Public Defender, Carlos manages an office of approximately 400 employees, handling approximately 75,000 cases each year.

Carlos has often stated that “fighting for individual rights and equal justice, for the downtrodden, the despised, the voiceless and the invisible, has not just given me great professional satisfaction, it has given meaning to my life.” This dedication to his cause has made him a tireless advocate for immigrant rights in Miami-Dade.


Cheryl Little, Esq.
Cheryl Little has been a tireless advocate for immigrant rights for over three decades and has established herself as one of this country’s leading experts in the immigration field. She is the co-founder of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Inc. (FIAC), now Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice), and serves as its Executive Director. She has received numerous honors and awards for her work, and has authored many publications in the area of immigration, including law review articles and reports. She has testified many times before Congress and appears regularly on television. Her appearances include 60 Minutes, Nightline, PBS’s News Hour, Frontline, The Oprah Winfrey Show and CNN.