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Hispanic Heritage Month 2023: How and Where to Celebrate

Taste, listen and dance at these events to celebrate Latin American culture

spinner image ballet hispanico dancers at the a la calle block party in twenty seventeen
Ballet Hispánico dancers at the A La Calle Block Party in 2017.
Hayim Heron

The people who make up the Hispanic and Latin American tapestry within the U.S. are as diverse as the various countries from which they come. Hispanic Heritage Month, which kicks off Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15, is ripe with opportunities to observe, celebrate and learn about the rich cultures and contributions of Hispanic Americans in the overarching American story.

What started as Hispanic Heritage Week under former President Lyndon B. Johnson was expanded to a monthlong observance 20 years later by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The start of Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the commemoration of the independence of five Central American nations from Spain: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its independence the following day, and Chile celebrates its independence day Sept. 18. As of July 2022, Hispanics are the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority in the U.S., with more than 63 million residents making up more than 19 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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“The term ‘Hispanic’ is the official U.S. designation for people of Spanish-speaking ancestry,” says Eduardo Pagán, a history professor at Arizona State University with expertise in Hispanic history and culture. The term “Latino,” Pagán says, “recognizes that Spanish-speaking people from Latin America are not European but a mix of Europeans and American Indigenous people.” He adds that “Latinx” is an effort to make the designation more gender-neutral, since most Spanish words are gendered masculine or feminine.

There’s nothing monolithic about Latin Americans. They encompass different races, skin tones and countries of origin; some speak Spanish, and some don’t. (And if they do, they may use their own colloquialisms to refer to the same things). A traditional dish in one country has different ingredients and flavors from its neighbor’s iteration. These characteristics are evident from Mexico to the southernmost city in the world in Argentina to Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

“Hispanics or Latinos have contributed to American life since the American Revolution, fighting in every war since then,” says Emily Key, head of audience engagement and education at the National Museum of the American Latino. “Latinos today continue to advance communities across the country as small-business owners, veterans, teachers and public servants, among many other professions. Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to recognize their achievements and contributions to our national story.”

Here’s how you can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month around the country through enriching arts, culture, food and learning events.

spinner image school of dance students performing at the a la calle block party in twenty nineteen
School of Dance students performing at the A La Calle Block Party in 2019.
Billy Pennant

Food, music and dance festivals

The International Latino Cultural Center is hosting a Chicago Latino Dance Festival. It’s a four-week event starting at 2 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Throughout the month, 37 dance groups will perform various styles of Latin American dance, including tango, Chilean cueca and Indigenous dances from the Quechua, Purepecha and Zapotec nations, according to the cultural center’s website. Attendees for the inaugural event should reserve a free ticket online. Check the cultural center’s calendar to see the full list of events.

West Covina, California, will host its Para La Cultura festival on Sept. 15, starting at 4 p.m. The free, family-friendly event will include 45 Hispanic vendors, live music and dancing, and Latin American cuisine.

Kick off the month on Sept. 15 in Houston with a performance by a Mexican mariachi music ensemble, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. The “El Grito Ceremony,” hosted by AARP Texas, will start at 6:30 p.m. and be livestreamed.

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If you’re in New York, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to dance the night away with Ballet Hispánico. The nation’s largest Latinx dance organization will host Celebración Latina, a community celebration with music, dance and food to mark the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month on Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.

Celebrando Con AARP in San Antonio is celebrating its 10th anniversary with live music by top Tejano, conjunto and cumbia bands and a community resource fair. The event starts at noon Oct. 15.

The Taste of Latino Festival is a free family and community event with Latino food, art and music throughout Florida. The event will take place Sept. 16 in Jacksonville, Oct. 1 in Fort Myers, Oct. 8 in Kissimmee and Oct. 15 in Ybor City.

Iowa’s Latino Heritage Festival is the largest ethnic event and the only two-day Latino heritage festival in the state. Attendees can expect musical performances, salsa lessons and food from local vendors. The celebration, which runs Sept. 23–24, takes place at Western Gateway Park in downtown Des Moines. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. both days. Tickets are sold in person at the admission gates and are $5 for adults. Children under 12 get in for free.

The ¡Estamos Aquí! Hispanic Arts and Culture Festival on Sept. 16 will feature a car show, food trucks and live music, among other attractions. The 3 p.m. event on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is free and open to the public.

Walt Disney World Resort is getting in on the magic and observing Hispanic Heritage Month. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will feature Latin cuisine throughout the park, and the “Eat to the Beat” series will host music from Hispanic artists with eclectic sounds for any taste, ranging from Afro-Colombian beats to funk and bachata. And there’ll be something for the grandkids: Mirabel and Bruno, beloved characters from the hit movie Encanto, will make their first-ever appearance at Magic Kingdom on Sept. 15. See details on the Disney Parks blog.

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​The Museo de Las Americas in Denver has been highlighting Latin American art and culture since 1991. This year, it will commemorate the month on Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. with a free event spotlighting local vendors and food trucks, and offering opportunities to connect with other Latin American art enthusiasts.

spinner image the gypsy rose pinata by artist justin favela
The Gypsy Rose Piñata by artist Justin Favela will be featured at The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Museum.
Courtesy of the artist and American Federation of Arts

Learning and listening events

In Washington, D.C., while the National Museum of the American Latino has not yet opened its doors, the National Museum of American History is featuring “¡Presente!: A Latino History of the United States.” The exhibit touches on themes of “Latino identity, immigration and historical legacies,” according to its website. View the exhibit in person (guided tours are available Thursdays through Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.) or via a self-guided virtual tour.

Since opening in June 2022, The Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art & Culture of the Riverside Art Museum in Riverside, California, has highlighted paintings, sculptures, photography and video from Mexican American artists. Exhibitions to visit during Hispanic Heritage Month include: “Cheech Collects” (through May 12, 2024), featuring nearly 90 pieces of art from the comedian’s own collection; the “Xican–a.o.x. Body” exhibition (through Jan. 7, 2024), showcasing lowrider cars, pottery, sculpture and other media; and “Origenes/Origins” (through Oct. 1), highlighting artwork inspired by the personal histories of seven Mexican Americans.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will host a Latinx Heritage Night on Sept. 21 starting at 5 p.m. The event features dance performances, artist talks and the opportunity to create your own landscape paintings inspired by the work of Puerto Rican artists. You can purchase tickets in advance, but the museum is also offering pay-what-you-want ($5 minimum) admission at the doors. 

You can also travel to Latin America virtually through online events. AARP Texas will host Mondays of Discovery Around Latin America exploring the history and culture of several countries. Folktale Wednesdays Around Latin America will offer storytelling journeys through Guatemala, Argentina, Panama and Uruguay. Register for the online events. 

Join AARP California for two virtual cooking demonstrations with ArtBites’ Maite Gomez-Rejón. The art and culinary historian will be teaching salsa history and recipes on Sept. 15 and how to make caldo tlalpeño, a Mexican chicken and vegetable soup, on Oct. 12. Register for the event online.

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