Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated to recognize the achievements and contributions of Hispanic Americans, runs from September 15th through October 15th.
There is a reason for this oddly scheduled “month.” On September 15th, 1821, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua declared their independence from Spain. Mexico and Chile celebrate their 1810 declarations of independence from Spain on September 16th and September 18th. Also during the month is the holiday known in the Latin American world as Día de la Raza, celebrated here as Columbus Day and translated as “Day of the Race,”referring to the heritage of the Iberoamerican people including its history of diversity and colonization. Similar to this country, where some celebrate the day as Indigenous Peoples Day, some in Latin America celebrate it as Día de los pueblos originarios y el diálogo intercultural (“Indigenous Peoples and Intercultural Dialogue Day”) or Día de las Américas (“Day of the Americas”).
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, scroll below to learn about several sites of importance in our communities.
La Nacional- The Spanish Benevolent Society
La Nacional was founded as a social club in 1868 and has long operated in the transitional style row house at 239 West 14th Street.
It’s one of the last vestiges of the once-large immigrant district formerly known as “Little Spain,” which at its peak was the largest Spanish-American community in New York City and stretched from Christopher to 23rd Street along the west side. It was here that revolutionaries and dissidents plotted to free Cuba from Spanish rule. Some 60 years later, avant-garde poets and artists, among them director Luis Buñuel and writer Federico García Lorca, would sit in those same seats and stay in those same rooms, the latter famously writing sections of his anthology Poet in New York during his stay at the Society.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Later in the 20th century, the East Village and Lower East Side became a hub for New York’s Latinx community and Puerto Rican migrants in particular. In 1973, writers Miguel Algarin, Pedro Pietri, Miguel Pinero, Bimbo Rivas, and Lucky Cienfuego founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe at 505 East 6th Street as a home for poetry, music, theater, and visual arts. Since 1981, it has operated out of 236 East 3rd Street and has become one of the country’s most highly respected arts organizations.
The Cafe champions the use of poetry, jazz, theater, hip-hop, and spoken word as means of social empowerment for minority and underprivileged artists. Allen Ginsberg once called it “the most integrated place on the planet.”
Loisaida Center & Loisaida Tour
The term “Loisaida,” Spanglish for “Lower East Side,” was coined by activist and Nuyorican Poets Cafe co-founded Bimbo Rivas in 1974, and defines the neighborhood by its Latinx identity. The Loisaida Center began as a grassroots movement led by Puerto Rican activists and Hispanic residents in the mid 1970’s to combat the effects of rampant violence, drugs, gangs, and poverty facing neighborhood children, youth and families. In 1978 Loisaida, Inc. was formally incorporated in New York State as a local development corporation, with the mission to address the serious economic and social disenfranchisement of poor and low-income residents via employment and training opportunities, comprehensive youth development initiatives, and neighborhood revitalization activities that positively highlighted the rich culture, heritage, and contribution of the Puerto Rican and Latin American community in this City.
This tour on our East Village Building Blocks website includes numerous sites of importance to the Hispanic community on the Lower East Side
Want to Learn More?
Check out our Civil Rights and Social Justice Map here.
Access our Chino Garcia oral history here. Garcia was an activist and founding member of the CHARAS-El Bohio Cultural Center.