The start of the Friday night rara procession on the week that I was in Miami was delayed because of the Miami Heat’s playoff game, and so the procession really didn’t get underway until around 9:30. Led by the musicians, it picked up participants as it proceeded through the residential streets of Little Haiti. Some of the more enthusiastic dancers ran a block ahead of the musicians to do dance poses low to the ground. People came outside on their porches and gathered along the sidewalks in some areas, and the whole scene became very familiar to me (aside from it being night), for this was very much like a New Orleans second-line. Even the vendors and food trucks that pulled up along the route were exactly like what one would have seen in New Orleans. Actually I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the Haitian Revolution of 1804 brought a number of French loyalists to New Orleans from Haiti, and also since many of the Africans brought to Louisiana were from the same regions of West Africa as those brought to Haiti. The rara bands share some aspects of the second-line tradition, such as using horns as well as drums, and leading the processions in which dancers and celebrants parade behind. But the raras also have points in common with Mardi Gras Indian practices, including the importance of drums and percussion, and also (at least in Haiti) the ritualized confrontations between different rara bands when they meet in the streets.
By the time we crossed over North Miami Avenue, we had assembled a fairly good-sized crowd, but my friend Jackson stated that the crowd was much smaller than average due to the ball game. Suddenly, all too soon, we arrived back at the corner of Northeast 2nd and 60th Street where it had all begun. I had not eaten since about 4 PM, so as everyone started to go their separate ways, I started trying to find a restaurant that wasn’t already closed, as it was almost 11 PM.