September 15 begins National Hispanic (or Latinx) Heritage Month, a month-long annual observation that has been celebrated in the US since 1968. Here are nine places around the country where you can honor Latinx history in person.Less
San Diego has rich Latinx culture that goes well beyond its beaches. Enter: Barrio Logan, a Mexican American neighborhood with residences dating back to the early 1900s. Today, it’s the epicenter of a vibrant food and arts scene. Tour Chicano Park to see stunning street art related to Chicano history, as well as visit craft breweries and enjoy local cuisine. And certainly don’t skip the Centro Cultural de la Raza in Balboa Park for the historical context of Latinx communities in San Diego.
The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach is the nation’s only museum dedicated to contemporary Latin American and Latinx artists. Regular events include art workshops, pop-up vendors, film screenings, author and illustrator meet-and-greets, and Latin dance classes for both children and adults, while a strong partnership with Long Beach Community Colleges ensures a steady stream of young Latinx talent on display. Check the MOLAA calendar for upcoming exhibits and events.
Though terms such as Hispanic and Latinx should be inclusive of Black populations—research shows that every country in Latin America has significant Black communities—the word AfroLatino/a/x/e (afrodescendiente in Spanish) was adopted in response to their continued erasure. At the Schomburg Center, learn about Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance, he raised awareness of unsung AfroLatino and African American societal contributions.
Another Latin American country with a large AfroLatinx population is Cuba. After the Cuban Revolution began in 1953, over half a million Cubans were exiled or migrated to Miami within two decades. Today, 2.3 million people of Cuban descent live in the United States. To get a feel for Cuban culture in Miami, consider a tour of Little Havana. There, try local eateries and sample authentic Cuban food and snacks such as empanadas, flan ice cream, croquetas, guava pastelitos, and Cuban coffee.
Haiti is often erased from discussions of Latin America. However, the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804)—a so-called “slave revolt” led by Toussaint Louverture, a formerly enslaved Black general—established Haiti as the first independent nation of Latin America. Fast forward to 1938, and American artist Jacob Lawrence painted a series depicting Louverture’s heroic life, which is now on display in the Butler Institute of American Art.
During the Wars of Independence (1804–1826), liberators across Latin America successfully freed most of the Spanish colonies in the Americas to establish independent nations, except for Cuba and Puerto Rico. The National Mall in the US capital honors such liberators as José Gervasio Artigas, Simón Bolivar, José de San Martín, and Benito Juárez by displaying statues gifted from Uruguay, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico, respectively.
Chicago has 670,000 Mexican-born residents, a large majority of which live in the southwest side of downtown, in a neighborhood called Pilsen. Originally a Czech neighborhood—a University of Illinois expansion caused a major relocation to this neighborhood and the area has since become a Mexican culinary center. Here, indulge in one of the area's many delicious bars and restaurants like La Mejikãna, famous for adding a modern twist to Mexican cuisine.
Remember the Alamo? This historic site in downtown San Antonio was founded by Catholic missionaries from Spain in the 1700s. Don’t remember the Alamo? Let’s back up. It became a fort during the Texas Revolution (1835–1836) when the Mexican army fought for control against a rebel force of Anglo colonists and Tejanos (Texas Latinos). During the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, the secessionist fighters succeeded in breaking from Mexico to establish the Republic of Texas, later annexed by the US.
Although Puerto Rico is not a US state, persons born here are US citizens. To learn about Boricua history, visit the colonial district of Old San Juan. Here, there are public plazas, churches, citadels, castles, and the governor’s palace, La Fortaleza, and historical structures built under Spanish rule have been the focus of major preservation efforts. Today, Old San Juan—aka La Ciudad Amurallada, or “the walled city”—features museums, shops, open-air cafés, restaurants, and colorful homes.