Running from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, the four weeks of national recognition aim to acknowledge the culture and contributions of a vibrant, multifaceted, multiethnic group of people, proud of their roots — whether from Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, South America or Spain.
Hispanic Heritage Month is “important because it is a period when Hispanics can have more visibility and a moment for us to reconsider our contribution and our history in the United States,” says Gloria Arjona, an expert on Latino history and culture and a Spanish language and literature lecturer at Caltech.
While many people celebrate their heritage all year long, including Abelardo de la Peña Jr., marketing and communications director for LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum, he notes that raising the profile of Hispanic contributions is essential.
"It's really the recognition of the Latino community, the Hispanic community as an important part of the American fabric,” says de la Peña, who is also the founder of LatinoLA.com, a website that salutes the diversity of Latino voices and highlights relevant events and activities.
So during this Hispanic Heritage Month, learn more about Afro-Latino culture, take in a mariachi performance or attend a local festival. Check out the offerings below.
Hispanic History in the U.S.
Take a deep dive into some of the history behind the contributions that Hispanic groups have made to American culture, with year-round exhibits like those at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum in Los Angeles. “We have been part of our nation's history throughout,” says de la Peña.
The exhibit "LA Starts Here!" uses video, photos, artifacts and personal narratives to tell the stories of indigenous, Mexican and Mexican American people from the Spanish Conquest through the 1970s, de la Peña says. The stories and histories are those that “many people don't know about because they don't learn about this in school,” he notes.
Even though the museum has reopened for visitors there's still plenty to view online. The exhibit "afroLAtinidad: mi casa, my city," is dedicated to the history, culture and lived experiences of Afro-Latino Angelenos. Online visitors can take a virtual, interactive tour of the exhibit or view a video on its creation.
Another virtual program, "En Familia con LA Plaza," features weekly workshops produced by the museum's education department that focus on things families can do together, like planting gardens, cooking, read-alongs and other culturally relevant activities.
If you're looking for discussions on important topics of our time, check out the monthlong lineup offered by the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Start out with a deep dive into the “why” behind Hispanic Heritage Month, with the university's Sept. 15 virtual panel, "What Does It Mean to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month?"
Consult the full roster of events for the month for wide-ranging discussion on everything from the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino community to discussions about racial justice and immigration.
And for some lighter fare, catch "¡Pleibol! In the Barrios and the Big Leagues," a traveling exhibit focused on the history of U.S. Latino baseball, which also includes an augmented reality, 3-D mini-exhibit presenting 16 signature objects from the exhibit.
The rhythm is gonna get you
Ever present in the music scene, Latino artists have experienced waves of popularity over the past several decades. But the focus on Latin music has exploded in the last two years, says Leila Cobo, vice president, Latin industry lead for Billboard. Latino artists are “collaborating more than ever with mainstream acts. They are more present than ever on global, Billboard and non-Latin charts,” Cobo says.
As Cuban American entertainer Gloria Estefan once sang, the “rhythm is gonna get you.” To tap into pop, Reggaeton, salsa, rock or regional Mexican music, Spotify and Pandora have Latin music channels and have also created special playlists for Hispanic Heritage Month.
For those craving live performances after more than a year of pandemic lockdowns, several top musicians will hit the road during Hispanic Heritage Month. You can see Marc Anthony in concert Aug. 27 - Dec. 18; Enrique Iglesias & Ricky Martin are on tour Sept. 25 - Nov. 20; legendary norteño band Los Tigres del Norte are on the road Sept. 10 - Nov. 20; the Los Bukis Reunion Tour runs from Aug. 27 - Oct. 2. Pitbull, aka “Mr. Worldwide," performs live Aug. 20 - Dec. 18. To extend the fun, Karol G is on tour from Oct. 27 – Nov. 26.
Many of the most popular artists will also participate in the Billboard Latin Music Week conference in Miami. Even if you're not ready to go anywhere in person, you can still check out your favorite stars at the 2021 Billboard Latin Music Awards, broadcast live from Miami on Telemundo on Sept. 23 and the 22nd annual Latin Grammys air live from Las Vegas on Nov. 18, on Univision.
Latino artists will also be honored at the 34th Hispanic Heritage Awards, created in 1987 by the White House to commemorate the establishment of Hispanic Heritage Month. The awards are considered to be among the highest honors by Latinos for Latinos. The event features and honors top Latin leaders, performers and personalities. It will air Oct. 8 on PBS stations and stream on pbs.org.
Film and TV entertainment options abound
When it comes to screens, there's a lot to see, and the #LatinxGoldOpen initiative strives to ensure the success of Latino films by encouraging people to go out en masse on the opening weekend of films made by or featuring Latinos. This year the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) joined the #LatinxGoldOpen initiative, starting with the promotion of Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights.
"It's not just the big studio movies. We're also going to look at niche, arthouse-type movies that sometimes don't have more than 5, 10 or 20 screens across the country and usually target L.A. and New York,” says NALIP Executive Director Ben Lopez. “What we want to do is help to expand that and turn those movies into hits."
During Hispanic Heritage Month, there are lots of choices, when it comes to films and movies.
The AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Md., will hold its 32nd annual Latin American Film Festival from Sept. 23 through Oct. 13, featuring movies from Argentina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Bolivia and more.
The 13th annual Hola Mexico Film Festival, billed as the largest Mexican film festival outside of Mexico, runs from Sept. 17 through 25 in Los Angeles, featuring films like the thriller Perdida. And the 21st Havana Film Festival New York runs Sept. 17-23.
Don't forget that you can also binge-watch lots of original programming created by or featuring Latinos on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu, like global hit La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), Club de Cuervos, The Legend of El Cid, El Candidato or Love, Victor. Some of those shows, films and performers are nominated in the 36th annual Imagen Awards that honors Latino talent and contributions on TV, film and streaming platforms. The ceremony airs Oct. 10 on PBSSoCal.org and KCET.org.
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Local festivals to enjoy
Many outdoor festivals that were once on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic are now back in action. Look for celebrations in your own city or town or check out Charlotte, N.C.'s Hola Charlotte Festival on Oct. 9, which celebrates Latin American culture with music and dance performances and activities for children.
Or drop by Florida's 2021 Viva Tampa Bay Hispanic Heritage Festival on Oct. 9 for food music and other events. And don't miss the Santa Fe Fiesta in New Mexico from Sept. 1 through Sept. 9 with Mariachi bands, crafts and more.