September 15 to October 15 marks National Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time dedicated to celebrating the cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. It began as a week-long celebration under President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. Then, it was expanded into 30 days by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
You may be wondering why observance begins mid-month.
September 15 was chosen as the official start date because of its cultural importance, marking independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile follow soon after on September 16 and September 18, respectively.
Here in Montgomery County, nearly 20 percent of residents are Hispanic, making up the second largest race/ethnicity within the community, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,. In fact, the most common language spoken in the county, other than English, is Spanish with 14.5 percent being native speakers.
So, it comes as no surprise that there are a number of events in our area celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Here’s when and where you can experience the sights, sounds and flavors of our valued and vibrant Hispanic community. Vamos!
The Latino Art League Gallery Exhibit and Artists Reception (September 1 – November 12)
The City of Gaithersburg and The Latino Art League (TLAL) of Greater Washington D.C., are presenting an exhibition of Latino artists in the metro area. The exhibit will run September 1 through November 12, at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park (506 South Frederick Avenue, Gaithersburg, MD). In addition to its work in the area, TLAL is also committed to building artistic bridges with overseas Latin communities. So this year, it held an art competition for high school students from the Peruvian town of Villa El Salvador. Ten winners from the competition will be featured in the exhibit.
AFI Latin American Film Festival (September 14 – October 4)
Now in its 28th year, the AFI Latin American Film Festival showcases the best films from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. There will be films by Hispanic filmmakers as well as works portraying cultural life in various Spanish-speaking nations. Films include the Queen of Spain starring Penelope Cruz, You’re Killing Me Susana starring Gael García Bernal of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle, and others. Click here for the full list of movies and showtimes.
In the Heights (September – October 22)
We previously covered In the Heights in one of our weekend round up blogs. Presented by the Olney Theatre Center, In the Heights is the first Broadway musical written by Lin-Manual Miranda. In addition to being the creator of the Hamilton, Miranda is an American of Puerto Rican descent. The show centers around Usnavi, the proprietor of a corner bodega. Usnavi guides the audience through his neighborhood of Washington Heights in a story where hip-hop meets salsa and soul. It’s one of the hottest tickets in town, so click here to check availability!
World of Montgomery (October 15, from noon to 4 p.m.)
Finally, the World of Montgomery Festival is an annual event that celebrates the rich diversity of Montgomery County through music, food, dance, arts demos and more. This year spotlights the cultures of Mexico, Germany, Korea, Ukraine, the Middle East, Thailand, India, China, Ethiopia and El Salvador. At the festival’s International Village, visitors will experience these leading cultures by participating in a wide variety of hands-on activities. Meanwhile, in the Global Kitchen section, international chefs prepare regional dishes and give attendees the chance to make their own tortillas, rice balls and roti. The centerpiece of the day is the Parade of Cultures. Stop by the free event at Montgomery College in Rockville.