Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Arlington, Virginia

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) and Día de los Muertos (Oct. 31 – Nov. 2) with events happening in Arlington and across the capital area.

Each year, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring the culture and accomplishments of Spanish-speaking residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. In addition, Día de los Muertos, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism in a typically Latin American custom that honors the dead with festivals and lively celebrations.

With nearly 15 percent of its residents boasting Hispanic, Latino or Spanish heritage, Arlington is especially proud to pay tribute to current and past generations who have contributed to, and enriched, the county’s culture and diversity.

Staying in Arlington puts you close to all of the area’s celebrations! Here are some local highlights:

Latino American Festival

Enjoy an evening of live music and dance, delicious Latino food, art projects, kids' activities, lots of vendors, a film screening of the Academy Award-winning animated movie Coco and more to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at 5 p.m. Oct. 5! The Latino American Festival at Arlington Mill Community Center is free and open to the public.

Día de los Muertos Exhibition

For the 15th consecutive year, Arlington Arts Center  presents a Día de los Muertos exhibition, a free family-friendly celebration with art activities, face painting and live Latin music. From 5 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3, complimentary Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muertos will be served.

painted skulls For Hispanic Heritage Month

Día de los Muertos at Long Branch Nature Center

Come celebrate the Day of the Dead in a night of family fun at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center at 6 p.m. on Oct. 27. Make Calaveras, the decorative sugar skull masks and costumes, enjoy holiday snacks, and see some night animals up close. Afterward, go on a fun night hike through the candlelit forest. The program costs $5, and registration is required.

National Portrait Gallery’s Family Fiesta

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., hosts a special Nuestra Ciudad/Our City festival Sept. 29 featuring artists, musicians and dancers. The Portrait Gallery also will host a special celebration dedicated to Día de los Muertos on Nov. 1 with live music, dancing and crafts, plus special performances by the Washington-based band Los Gallos Negros and the Maru Montero Dance Co. Both groups celebrate Mexican and Latin American music and dance.

Fiesta DC

Fiesta DC, an annual celebration highlighting the Latino culture with a Parade of Nations, is set for Sept. 15-16 in Washington, D.C. See traditional costumes and entertainment from a variety of Latino countries in the Sept. 15 parade starting at Constitution Avenue and 7th Street near the National Archives Building and proceeding east. An event stage will be located at 10th and Constitution Avenue in front of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Zoo Fiesta

Meet Andean bears, sloths, golden lion tamarins and Panamanian golden frogs at Zoo Fiesta, the National Zoo’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 23. Starting at 11 a.m., this free event features talks, feedings, and demonstrations highlighting a variety of native animals, as well as live music and educational activities about conservation in Central and South America. You can even meet Zoo scientists working to save native species and learn about their research!  

National Museum of the American Indian

To mark Día de los Muertos, which coincides with the end of the monarch butterflies’ long southward migration toward Mexico, the National Museum of the American Indian celebrates the winged creatures through the creation of an interactive mural, butterfly luminaria and butterfly masks on Oct. 27. Grupo los Tecuanes (Mixtec) will share cultural performances of Danza de los Tecuanes (Dance of the Jaguar) and Danza de los Viejitos (Dance of the Old Men).

Make it Monumental

National Hispanic Heritage Month means it’s also a good time to visit monuments and learn more about history. Visit the United Spanish War Veterans Memorial located on Memorial Avenue in Arlington, west of Arlington Memorial Bridge.

Spanish War Veterans Memorial statue of Hispanic military heritage

Also labeled, “The Hiker,” the statue stands sentinel heading into Arlington National Cemetery. The base includes the insignia of the Spanish War Veterans and the dates of the war, 1898 – 1902, which resulted in the United States acquiring territories in the western Pacific and Latin America.

Inside the cemetery, the 50-foot-high Spanish-American War Monument has stood since 1902, dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt. The Spanish-American War Nurses Monument, in the cemetery’s Section 21, recalls the first war involving the United States in which nurses were assigned as a special, quasi-military unit.

Find out more about touring all of Arlington’s iconic memorials and museums.

*Main photo courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Photo by Matailong Du.

Author: Kathleen Murphy

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