Cool Places to Experience NYC’s Thriving Latino Culture
Not only for Hispanic Heritage Month, but year-round.
Across our beautiful city, nearly 2.5 million Latino New Yorkers—many tracing their ancestry to countries like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, and more—create an intricate mosaic of cultures, cuisines, identities, and traditions.
And it’s here, throughout the five boroughs—in enclaves like Washington Heights and Inwood, where 67% of the population identifies as Hispanic; Mott Haven and Concourse in the Bronx for their predominant Puerto Rican and Dominican presence; and Brooklyn’s Sunset Park and Bushwick for a thriving Mexican populace—that we’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the most admired and trailblazing Latino-owned and -operated businesses, artistic venues, and community hubs in America.
So, as we honor the multitude of indelible contributions of this diverse group during Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15—as well as all year-round—along with events like the Hispanic Day Parade, from holistic herb shops and independent bookstores to renowned museums and legendary performance centers, we’ve rounded up some of the most essential spots to take in the vibrancy of NYC’s Latino history and culture.
Additionally, in light of the catastrophic and ongoing damage inflicted by Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, consider donating to the country during this time of need and widespread power outages. Ways to help include local groups such as the women’s organization of Taller Salud (via PayPal and food/essentials emergency package contributions); the community-based initiative Brigada Solidaria del Oeste (via PayPal—@firstname.lastname@example.org—and food/essentials emergency package contributions); and the national nonprofit Hispanic Federation.
A herbalist born and raised in Costa Rica, founder Adriana Ayales’ mission for her holistic shop, Anima Mundi, is to share traditional medicine and remedies to the modern world, while honoring sacred practices and botany from Central and South America. Within the calming Greenpoint flagship, customers can peruse a remarkable collection of more than 200 herbs offering a range of health benefits in the form of powders, elixirs, tonics, body and face oils, teas, and much more. For those in Manhattan, there’s now a second location in SoHo. Be sure to follow their IG for a recommended daily dose of positive affirmations and inspo via at-home recipes.
Elegant whirls of silk and ethereal wisps of tulle are just the metaphorical start of the 8-count at the historical Ballet Hispánico. Founded in 1970 by the innovative Tina Ramirez, who just recently passed this month, this organization has provided an artistic sanctuary for more than 50 years through high-energy dance productions (melding traditional practices with contemporary movement and music), instructional programs and training, and initiatives to uplift the community. In addition to catching shows by the world-renowned company at their UWS headquarters, on Saturday, October 2 from 12 pm–4 pm, Ballet Hispánico is hosting the fifth edition of their A La Calle Block Party, which includes performances and music, free dance classes, and bites from local vendors.
Famous across all five boroughs for its Puerto Rican homestyle cooking, this local favorite in Alphabet City has been operating since 1976. Founded by beloved matriarch, Adela Fargas, who posthumously just had the eatery’s block named after her, Casa Adela continues to serve its beloved dishes and is now run by her descendents. Popular items you can’t-miss dishes include the Mofongo (fried crushed plantains made with garlic and pork crackling); Tostones; and Chicharron de Pollo (chicken crackling served with rice and beans). Also, remember that cards aren’t accepted here, so don’t forget to drop by an ATM pre-visit.
The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center
Named after the legendary Puerto Rican activist and poet Clemente Soto Vélez, who was a driving force behind the advocacy for Puerto Rico’s independence, The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center serves as a base for local nonprofits and community organizations on the Lower East Side. With its headquarters operating out of a historical building that was previously a NYC public school until 1993, the center also displays a range of Latino, BIPOC, local NYC, and international talent through collaborative exhibits, projects, artist residencies, and workshops. Currently, the newest exhibit is (In) Tangible World: Postdigital Corporeality, by Spanish and UK-based curators Belinda Martín and Paula Ramos Mollá, which sheds light on how people perceive the body and sexuality.
Deep Cuts Record Store
From die-hard vinyl lovers to fresh-faced new collectors, Colombian-American owner and curator, Brandon and partner John’s mainly secondhand shop, Deep Cuts Record Store, is longtime treasured standby for any and all of your record player needs. For the past eight years here in Ridgewood, guests are greeted by blue and white checkered floors, tables stacked with an eclectic mix of used and new vinyls, shelves lined with cassettes, and, most notably, an altar dedicated to the Tejano music icon Selena. With loads of genres available, the extensive selection at Deep Cuts ranges from salsa and reggaeton to Latin pop and classic rock.
The Hispanic Society Museum and Library
For more than a century, The Hispanic Society Museum and Library has showcased a wealth of art and culture from across Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines, and beyond. Among the 900 paintings and 6,000 watercolors plus drawings, the remarkable collection boasts rare pieces created by historic artists like Francisco Goya and Alonso López de Herrera. During Hispanic Heritage Month, special programming includes outdoor performance pieces on the property’s terrace called En Mis Sueños on Saturday, September 24 and Saturday, October 1. Alternatively, join in on the month-long curated book club composed of famous Latin American and Spanish 20th century writers whose works can be found within the library.
The Lit. Bar
As the self-proclaimed “official bookstore of Wakanda and the Bronx,” The Lit. Bar still shares the title as one of the only brick-and-mortar bookstores serving the 1.4 million people and 10 colleges of the Bronx. An impassioned project from owner and Bronx-native Noëlle Santos, the concept behind her business came about when the borough’s only bookstore (a Barnes & Noble) closed in 2016. Three years later in 2019, The Lit. Bar opened its doors, offering the area a bookstore, wine bar, and community center rolled into one. Pull up for a reading/signing event or explore the shop’s literary categories from Queer & Dear to Bronx Tales.
El Museo del Barrio
Widely referred to as Spanish Harlem, the El Barrio area in East Harlem depicts a rich tapestry of Afro-Latin, Latino, and Caribbean heritage through murals, restaurants, community centers, and museums like the legendary El Museo del Barrio. Opened in 1969, the property touts an impressive permanent collection that spans more than 800 years of Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino art, artifacts, photography, and video, in addition to a rotation of limited-time exhibitions. Currently, the on-site galleries are closed for autumnal preparations—and are set to reopen on October 27—but, in the meantime, virtual tours of the museum and surrounding neighborhood are available online.
For founder Maria Herron, the opening of Mil Mundos in 2018 was a way to preserve the culturally rich community of Bushwick against the reaches of recent gentrification. Making history as the first bilingual bookstore in Brooklyn and currently the only bookstore in the neighborhood east of Myrtle Avenue, customers will find that almost half of the titles on the shelves are written in Spanish. In addition, Herron and her team provide a bevy of literature, illustrated books, and poetry that celebrates Latino, Black, and Indigenous heritage. Also, for those wishing to add a second language to their repertoire, Mil Mundos hosts personalized six-week-long Spanish courses via teleconference.
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
A hub for romantic prose and impassioned storytelling, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe has attracted a progressive and open-minded community of performers and spectators since it was first established in 1973 in the apartment of famed Puerto Rican poet Miguel Algarin. After 40 years of groundbreaking work, the spot still serves as a safe haven and multicultural institution that champions a diverse range of poetry, jazz, theater, hip-hop, and spoken word. Whether you’d rather watch from the sidelines or bravely step on stage armed with original material, weekly programming includes poetry slams on select evenings; Open Mic Nights on Mondays; and Karaoke After Parties on Saturday nights.
A popular destination for Ecuadorian cuisine and live music, Sabor Latino in Elmhurst doubles as an excellent spot for traditional dishes—like Seco de Chivo (braised goat) and Guatita (beef tripe stew served with fried plantains)—and live beats by cumbia and vallenato bands. Primed for late nights, the restaurant/dance club stays open on the weekends until 4 am and touts an exciting lineup of upcoming entertainment such as the celebrated Puerto Rican salsa singer, Maelo Ruiz, and well-known Colombian vallenato artist Alejandro Palacio.
In the upper reaches of New York City, sits the South Bronx, an eclectic and historically rich area made up of four neighborhoods: Concourse, Melrose, Mott Haven, and Port Morris. Known for its combined vibe of nostalgia and new creative inspiration, since the end of the 1950s, the South Bronx has been home to a predominantly Latino and Black community. Today, along with the rest of the borough’s thriving Latino population (which is more than 54%) a tight-knit and expansive Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Mexican enclave continues to reside here.
From culinary excellence to creative innovations, there’s plenty to explore. When hunger strikes, drop by the San Juan-based Chocobar Cortes for an imaginative chocolate-infused selection of dishes like Chocolate Grilled Cheese and a Chocolate Old Fashioned. Additional crowd favorites include Rosa’s at Park for reimagined Latin classics or Empanology at The Bronx Brewery for a raved-about range of handhelds.
For outdoor enthusiasts, try out your green thumb at the volunteer-run community garden called La Finca Del Sur on East 183rd Street. And then follow your alfresco activity with a journey to a range of vibrant art galleries like WALLWORKS NY and small-owned businesses for some retail therapy including clothing/accessories from Perico Limited and handmade furniture by Gomez Design Studio.
Known for serving up some of the most sought-after tacos in New York City is CDMX-style Taqueria Ramírez. Run by Tania Apolinar and Giovanni Cervantes, the eatery sports a concise six-item menu of Tacos de Pastor; Suadero; Longaniza; Campechano; Tripa; and Nopales. All meats are cooked in the choricera (a large stainless steel pot) or trompo (rotating spit)—which are then served in grilled corn tortillas. With no takeout or delivery, these beauties are meant to be devoured onsite within the restaurant, but with only 16 stools be prepared to munch standing up or on a nearby bench.