Latin dance enthusiasts and performers have arrived in Miami from across the globe for the 16th annual Miami Salsa Congress. It's one of the biggest events of its kind, with participants coming from as far as Russia, South Africa and New Zealand.
"In 2002, we got together, did one, started with 400 people. We're up to over 5,000 now," said founder and organizer Rene Gueits. He owns the Miami-based dance company Salsa Lovers, where they call him "Mr. Salsa." After traveling the world and seeing similar events thriving in places like Puerto Rico, he wanted to bring it to Miami.
"I've never felt so welcome and so happy to actually dance with different people," said Carlos Martinez from Philadelphia, who is new to the Latin dance scene. "You may not know their name or where they're from, but you do know everyone does match one mutual thing, and that is dancing. Because we all love to dance."
This year's Congress got off to a rough start after an electrical fire at the Deauville Beach Resort forced guests to evacuate. All activities have been moved to the DoubleTree by Hilton Miami Airport & Convention Center. After finding another venue and moving attendees to other hotels, Gueits said everything with continue as planned.
"Yeah, we're still here," he said. "People [are] coming in from all over, and we're just gonna salsa all weekend long."