¡La Sonada Florida! Courtesy of HistoryMiami Museum.

History of Latin Music in Florida

Individuals of Latin American and Caribbean heritage have left a permanent mark on the state of Florida, sharing and blending their music, art, culture, food and language. While Cubans make up the largest portion of Florida’s Latin American population, there are many diverse communities that contribute to the state’s rich cultural landscape, including Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Dominicans and Mexicans, among others.

The city of Miami has long been a capital for Latin music, with big name musicians often touring and making a home in the area. In the 1930s, with the advent of “snowbirds,” or people from northern United States traveling down to a warmer winter in Florida, Miami’s Latin music scene was energized with big wave of outside influence. The rhumba was one of the dances of choice at the time, and bandleaders such as Cuban-born Desi Arnaz brought these sounds to Miami.

The year 1959 marks a major turning point in Florida and Miami history. With Fidel Castro’s rise to power, many Cubans defected to Miami to establish permanent homes across southern Florida. Before this influx, Miami was mostly a retirement town; after, it became a major hub for Latin American culture, music production and performance.

Children from this massive influx began to dominate the music scene in the 1970s through the 1990s, and famous musicians like Celia Cruz continued to tour extensively in Miami and other cities. In Miami, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine took the world by storm in the 1980s and 90s, combining sounds from her Cuban homeland with U.S. popular music. Estefan and her husband, Emilio, are often credited with putting Miami on the map as a major music destination.

Today, Latin and Caribbean music can be heard across Florida. Artists from all over the world flock to Florida to perform and record their music. Many popular musicians have also made seasonal or full-time homes in Florida, including Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull, Shakira, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Spam Allstars, Neri Torres and Renesito Avich.

The ¡La Sonada Florida! music tour will guide you through Latin and Caribbean music history and culture in Florida. Visit the Musicians page to learn about and listen to notable performers from the Sunshine State, and then use the Things to Do page to visit music festivals, significant venues and historical sites to experience Florida’s music history firsthand.

¡La Sonada Florida! is designed to showcase the wide variety of Latin and Caribbean music and dance across the state. It seeks to strike a balance in representation of music and dance, varied regional styles and cross-cultural fusions. This tour offers only a small selection of the many musical practices throughout the state, so be sure to come see all of the music and dance traditions that Florida has to offer!

Point of Interest

HistoryMiami Museum features diverse subjects relating to Miami’s cultural history, music, sports and art. In addition to exhibitions, HistoryMiami offers an Artist-in-Residence series dedicated to bringing world-class musicians, storytellers and artisans to the museum and other museum-sponsored events.

Cubaocho Museum and Performing Arts Center is an innovative business concept that is part fine arts gallery and part music lounge. Visitors can view an extensive collection of Cuban art from 1800-1958, then head to the bar for fine Cuban drinks and dancing.

Calle Ocho, the largest Hispanic event in the United States, is a street festival and parade held every year in Little Havana. Visitors can hear live music, sample authentic and innovative cuisine from all across Latin America, peruse the numerous vendor booths, watch the parade and dance all day.

Conga Caliente is an annual festival held in Tampa, Florida, that hosts performers from all over Latin America, including a competition to find the best Conga player of the festival. In addition to music, there is also an artist village showcasing local artists’ works, a youth stage and village, educational displays, traditional Latin American foods and a domino tournament.

Festival Calle Orange takes place in the heart of downtown Orlando and features many genres of Latin music, including salsa, bachata and merengue. Guests can sample diverse food offerings, play games, enter giveaways and dance all day to live musical performances.