There are more than 500 years of Hispanic heritage sites to explore throughout the nation. But it wasn’t until 1988 that National Hispanic Heritage Month became official, shining a spotlight on the people and places that exemplify the Latinx experience.
While most Hispanic heritage sites are in the western and southern U.S., the Northeast has some treasures that are definitely worth a visit. Here are some landmark destinations for making a tribute of your own – any time of year.
Hispanic Society of America
The Hispanic Society of America was founded in 1904 by philanthropist Archer M. Huntington. Spurred by a passion for the diverse cultures of Spain, Latin America, Portugal, and the Philippines, he began by displaying his extensive private holdings, a collection that continues to grow to this day: In fact, it currently houses the largest collection of Hispanic artifacts in the nation.
The museum is open to the public and shows exhibits ranging from paintings by masters like El Greco and Goya to photographs, books, ceramics, jewelry and furniture. As if this vast trove weren’t enough to scratch every history-lover’s itch, this National Historic Landmark is an architectural gem in upper Manhattan’s legendary Audubon Terrace Historic District, a site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
El Museo de Barrio
Not far south from the Hispanic Society is El Museo de Barrio. Founded in the 1960s by a broad community of Puerto Rican culture advocates, it is now home to a permanent collection of more than 8,000 objects. They span over an impressive 800 years of art history from Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to a wide range of popular, year-round events and temporary exhibits, its permanent collections focus on modern art, graphics, popular traditions, and Taíno and pre-Colombian artifacts. Be sure to check the website before you go for the latest family-friendly and community-oriented events.
The Bronx is also home to a music store steeped in Hispanic heritage. Also on the National Register of Historic Places, Casa Amadeo, antigua Casa Hernandez is New York City’s oldest Latin record shop in continuous operation.
Opened in 1941 by siblings Victoria and Rafael Hernandez, it was bought in 1969 by legendary musician-composer Miguel Angel “Mike” Amadeo. Now in his late eighties, he still owns and operates it. You’ll find it on the ground floor of a beautiful 1905 neo-Renaissance building that has been managed by community housing organization Banana Kelly since the 1970s. Go for the history and the tunes, roam the area for a one-of-a-kind vibe.
Hispanic cultural centers right outside NYC
One out of every five New Jersey-ites identify as Latino or Hispanic. So it’s no surprise that a mere hop from New York City lie some prime destinations for soaking in the authentic food, culture, and heritage of the Spanish-speaking world.
Havana on the Hudson, the second most populated Latino/Hispanic area in the US, boasts ever-bustling Bergenline Avenue. The state’s longest commercial stretch, it beelines through the minority-majority cities of North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York, and Union City.
A short 30-minute drive northwest is the Little Lima neighborhood in Paterson. Worth a visit in its own right, this Peruvian enclave also borders the city’s lively Italian, Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican neighborhoods.
If you’re looking for some Hispanic heritage that’s a bit older, head over to New Jersey’s largest city, Newark. The Newark Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of Latin American art and artifacts from the pre-Colombian era to today.
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The Blackstone River Valley (National Heritage Corridor)
The birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution in the mid-19th century, the Blackstone River Valley was teeming with world-famous textile mills. But by the early 1960s, there was a shortage of skilled loom operators. This prompted mill owner Jay Giuttari to begin bringing master weavers up from Colombia, then Latin America’s largest textile manufacturer.
Many area mills soon caught on, sparking a new wave of immigration from South America that ensured the survival of the aging mills for a few more decades. In fact, Giuttari’s Lyon Silk Works stayed in operation until 2020. Now designated a National Heritage Corridor, this 48-mile stretch along the Blackstone River goes from Pawtucket, Central Falls and Providence in Rhode Island to Worcester, Massachusetts. These cities are still home to vibrant and varied Hispanic communities, many of whose residents helped preserve a valuable piece of American history.
What other places that are important to Hispanic heritage have you visited, or wanted to visit? Let us know in the comments below.