Latino Life in Philly

10 ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Philly

Latine joy will be everywhere this September and October, from poet laureate book talks to Bad Bunny-themed raves.

A welcome sign at Spruce Street Harbor Park

A welcome sign at Spruce Street Harbor Park

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
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There’s a lot to celebrate about being Latine in Philadelphia. There’s more and more of us moving to the city, and we’re gaining representation in local politics, from City Council to potentially even the mayor’s office.

Philly’s Hispanic and Latine community brings a lot to the table during Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from the middle of September through the middle of October.

Why does the “month” split the difference between summer and fall? Because of Ronald Regan. No, really — when the former president formalized the commemoration in 1988, he did so to capture the independence days for eight Latin American countries: Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua.

An interesting FYI: Though the celebration’s official title has some colonial and paternalistic connotations to bear, you can — and should — still join in on the festivities if you identify as Latina, Latino, or Latine. After all, the point is to elevate the achievements of cultures across the Latin American and Caribbean diaspora, from Mexico and Honduras to Puerto Rico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic.

Latine joy takes many forms, so we rounded up 10 Hispanic Heritage Month events from across Philly, from free Bachata lessons and a book talk to a Bad Bunny-themed dance party.

Antonio Martorell: A/RESTOS

Taller Puertorriqueño, through Sunday, Sept. 18

Catch the final days of the immersive, felt-forward, and free art exhibit A/RESTOs at Kesington’s Latin cultural center, Taller Puertorriqueño. This collection of work from Puerto Rican mixed media artist Antonio Martorell draws inspiration from the aftermath of the 2014 debt crisis and 2017’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, where disinvestment from the United States government left the island on the verge of financial and environmental collapse.

Cost: Free

El Mercado Cultural presented by Fleisher Art Memorial 

Spruce Street Harbor Park, 12 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18

Bella Vista art center Fleisher Art Memorial wraps its final installment of El Mercado Cultural into Spruce Street Harbor Park’s 3-day fall festival. Typically held at the Cherry Street Pier, this outdoor flea market lets new Latin merchants and entrepreneurs hawk their goodies free of charge, and you can expect anything from cheesy breakfast arepas to handmade handbags and hot sauce.

Cost: Free to browse, vendor prices vary

Latinx 2044: A Hispanic Heritage Month Comedy Special

Theater Exile, 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18

Now a Fringe Fest mainstay, this power hour of laughs from Crossroads Comedy Festival curates the best of Philly’s Latino’s comedians, MC’ed by Che Guerrero — think more John Leguizamo, less George Lopez. Heads up, gringos and gringas: Some of this show will be entirely in Spanish, so your high school language classes might not cut it.

Cost: $12

Dine Latino Restaurant Week

Multiple Locations, runs Sept. 19 to Sept. 23rd

The Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce brings together 20 Latine-owned restaurants for the fall edition of this biannual tradition. Diners get a free appetizer or dessert with a purchase of two entrees at participating restaurants, which includes “Queer Eye” favorite Alma del Mar, Queen Village’s cozy Queen & Rook board game cafe, and even Greek institution South Street Soulvaki.

Cost: Price varies, with most entrees below $30

Taco Fiesta 2022

Bok, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22

This one-night-only taco feast is the first-ever fundraiser for the Association of Mexican Business Owners of Philadelphia, which began as a collective of small entrepreneurs who needed immediate cash to sustain operations during the pandemic. Participating chefs and restaurants are a secret for now, but expect a bonus art exhibition and lots of group activities to keep the night interesting.

Cost: $45

Puerto Rican Day Parade 

Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 12 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25

After a two-year hiatus, the Puerto Rican Day Parade heads back to the Parkway (it’ll also be broadcast on 6ABC). Philly is home to the second largest stateside Puerto Rican population, so expect Eakins Oval to be flooded with plenty of loud and proud Boricuas — and lots of informal after parties.

Cost: Free

Ada Limón at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Parkway Central Library, 7:30 p.m. Monday Oct. 10

Current U.S Poet Laureate and Mexican author Ada Limón will take over the auditorium at the Free Library’s main branch for a book talk and signing of her latest book “The Hurting Kind,” a collection of poems that probes the connection between humans and the natural world.

Cost: $16.50

Bachata classes with Controlla Dance Academy

Frankford Pause Park, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 & Oct. 7

You can learn this essential Dominican social dance for free as part of Frankford’s Pause Park slate of fall programming — no prior dance experience necessary.

Already mastered bachata? The class’s instructors come from Controlla Dance Academy, a South Philly dance studio that specializes in Latin Ballroom, from mambo to salsa.

Cost: Free

Unscripted Jazz Series presents Pablo Batista’s Latin Jazz Sextet 

South Jazz Kitchen, 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29

Grammy-winning drummer Pablo Batista will take the stage not once, but twice for intimate performances at this North Broad jazz club. Expect plenty of bold Latin jazz riffs, but also hints of gospel and R&B influence based on Batista’s work with heavy hitters like Patti LaBelle and Philly’s own Jill Scott.

Cost: $32 (food and drink not included)

Club 90s presents Bad Bunny Night 

The Fillmore, 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

Say farewell to Hispanic Heritage Month on the dance floor at a Bad Bunny-themed dance party thrown by Club 90s, whose whole business model is all about throwing dance parties. They’ll be plenty of hits from the history-making Latin trap superstar, with plenty of regular reggaetón thrown in the mix — though we can’t promise you’ll have as much fun as when Bad Bunny actually came to Philly.

Cost: $15 to $20