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Philadelphia’s Hispanic and Latino population surged over the past decade, and now makes up nearly 15% of residents, according to the 2020 Census. That’s around 240,000 people — and the communities continue to grow.
It’s one reason there’s plenty to do for National Hispanic Heritage Month in Philly. The celebration starts in the middle of September and ends in the middle of October. Though the term “Hispanic” is loaded with colonial and paternalistic connotations, the month also celebrates those who identify as Latina or Latino.
Why does the “month” split the difference between September and October? When President Ronald Regan formalized it in 1988, he cited the fact that eight Latin American countries won their independence during the period: Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.
These commemorative weeks are dedicated to celebrating the contributions and cultures of those with Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central or South American origins to the United States, and there’s lots going on to recognize this heritage in Philadelphia right now.
We rounded up the best of the bunch, from a Fringe Festival comedy show to a chamber orchestra concert, and not one, but two block parties.
Spruce Street Harbor Park, Saturday, Sept. 25, 11:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m.
The Puerto Rican Day Parade is canceled for the second year in a row, but Concilo is still holding its family-friendly pregame. The open-air market along the Delaware River features dozens of vendors selling everything from food to tchotchkes to clothing, with live music throughout the day.
Mascher St. and Lehigh Ave, Sunday Sept. 26, 2 to 7:00 p.m.
Presented by Aspira of Pennsylvania and state Rep. Angel Cruz, this unofficial Puerto Rican Day Parade celebration features performances from meringue band Grupo Manía and Latino house band TKA. Keep the celebration going with an afterparty at Izlas in Kensington.
Theater Exile, Monday, Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m.
Smack in the middle of this year’s Fringe Festival is an hour of laughs with Philly’s emerging Latino comedians, curated by Crossroads Comedy Theater. Think John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” — minus the history.
Live! Casino & Hotel, Friday, Oct.1, 7:00 p.m to midnight.
Network with local Hispanic and Latino movers and shakers at this masked gala presented by El Sol Latino newspaper and Goya Foods. The night starts with a red carpet, followed by a formal dinner and ceremony, and then ends with live music and a packed dance floor.
Urban Movement Arts, Friday, Oct. 1, 8:30 p.m to midnight.
Kick off the night with an hour-long bachata and salsa lesson for beginners with instructor Laurel Card. Then, stay for a BYOB situation as you test your skills on the dance floor. Can’t make it? Try a virtual Latin House class on Saturday at 11 a.m, which combines shuffling with a whole lot of hip-shaking.
Taller Puertorriqueño, ongoing. Closes Oct. 2.
Former Taller Puertorriqueño executive director Irizarry returns to his roots for his first-ever gallery exhibition at the North 5th Street arts center. His latest collection of mixed media works examines where the Puerto Rican identity stands in 2021. Expect haunting collages, whimsical sculptures of chanclas, and lots of introspection.
Multiple locations, runs Oct. 11 to Oct. 15.
The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce brings together 19 Latino restaurants for this biannual celebration of tostones, arepas, pastelillos, and much more. With each purchase of two entrees, diners get a free dessert or appetizer. Participating restaurants range from casual street food joint El Merkury and empanada specialist Jezabel’s Cafe to diner-slash-seafood restaurant Alma Del Mar and Marquis and Co.’s upscale taqueria Bar Bombón.
Cost: Price varies, with most entrees below $30
Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Thursday, Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m
This night of classical music with a self-conducted chamber orchestra features a mix of gospel and Cuban dance music. Called “first rate in every way” by The New York Times, Sphinx Virtuosi is comprised of 18 Black and Latinx string players who participated in the Sphinx Competition, the only national music competition for Black and Latinx classical musicians.