Annually, National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed in America from September 15 to October 15, during which we celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of the Hispanic community both here in America and abroad. What began as Hispanic Heritage Week under the Johnson administration, has expanded into a month of celebration that coincides with the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Here are a fews ways you can make the most of this month through education, action and support for the Hispanic-American community.
Kicking-off the celebrations this September is Fiesta Ravinia, a day-long festival celebrating Mexican Independence Day. The fest lineup is packed with authentic music from a number of bands from Chicago and elsewhere, as well as activities like Galli Lucha Libre — a hybrid of Mexican and American wrestling styles. The event is free, open to the public and family friendly. Join in the festivities and start this month off right. More information can be found on the Ravinia website.
To round out the month-long observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Hispanic Business Network will be hosting their annual Scholarship Gala on October 14. The event will commemorate their nine years of service to Chicago businesses and their commitment to Hispanic heritage and community — with funds from the gala going to support their Scholarship Fund for local students. Tickets and more information are available on the Hispanic Business Network website.
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Founded in 1982, the National Museum of Mexican Art — located in Pilsen — has been a cornerstone of Mexican art preservation in Chicago and beyond. With exhibits that traverse many eras and “stimulate knowledge and appreciation of Mexican art and culture” anyone looking to expand their mind and understanding of Mexican culture through the years needn’t look further. More information about admission and hours of operation are available on the NMMA website.
What makes food so delicious? There are many answers to this question, but for the folks at Pan Artesanal Bakery their solution is simple: keep it authentic and keep it in the family. Owned by two sisters, the bakery is serving up the perfect combination of traditional Mexican baked goods and French patisserie. This local-favorite is open only on weekends from 8am until they sell their last morsel — and you do not want to miss out! More information about their operations and baked delights are available on the Pan Artesanal Instagram.
Tamales are a staple of Hispanic cuisine and while the traditional flavors are as highly sought after as ever, Yvolinas Tamales is putting a twist on a classic. Choose from any number of delicious fillings — they even offer vegetarian options — served up in a banana leaf, as opposed to the traditional corn husk. And try out one of their house-made beverages like refreshing horchata or kale-mango juice. Sure to curb your cravings — head over to the Yvolinas Tamales Facebook page for more information.
The owners are a sibling duo originally hailing from Tijuana, Mexico, who purchased a store front in Avondale back in 2017. Today, they have expanded to more locations but still continue to serve deliciously robust beverages and specialty treats. For them, creating a safe, inclusive space is just as important as the food and drink — making Brew Brew a must-hit locations for you caffeine needs. More information about their locations and menu are available on the Brew Brew Coffee and Tea website.
Read & Watch
Written in 1984 by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, “The House on Mango Street,” is a coming of age tale unlike any other. Set in an unidentified Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago, the story follows two young girls as they navigate identity, class and life itself — relevant for anyone, regardless of age.
Netflix’s series “Street Food” takes a close look at cultures around the world and their connection to local cuisine. In this iteration, the show follows six chefs in six different cities in Latin America. For foodies or lovers of cultures other than their own, this show will delight and hunger you!
Following themes of environmentalism, food and culture, this Netflix documentary — directed by Uruguayan filmmaker Luis Ara — was eight years in the making. The result was a cinematic journey through South America, from remote deserts to populated cities. “Perú: Tesoro Escondido” is a celebration of culture, one well-worth tuning in for.
Support Local Businesses
What was once a warehouse dedicated to distributing Spanish language titles to clients across the country — from indie bookstores to mass marketers — has since expanded to include a bookstore showroom. Home to countless titles and endless genres, Giron Books has helped put Spanish literature into the hands of readers both locally and nationally since 1985, with no plans to stop now. Check out their catalogue and hours of operation on the Giron Books website.
Chicago plant lovers are bound to find their next green project at the Plant Shop Chicago — a nursery on the Northside, founded by Ozzy Gamez of Belize and Juan Quezada of Mexico. Their store — both online and in person — offers a range of plants from tropicals to succulents. For more information on their plant selections or to see what other goodies they have for your garden, visit the Plant Shop Chicago.
For more ways to nationally celebrate and honor the Hispanic community this month, visit the National Hispanic Heritage Month website.
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Margaret Smith is a Chicago-based writer and editor with a passion for socio-political storytelling about their community. They are a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.