Virtual Bookshelf: Hispanic Heritage Month 

Gateway Portales Mural
Photo caption

Mural commissioned for Gateways/Portales exhibition, Rosalia Torres-Weiner, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2016.

(September 15, 2023)

From September 15 through October 15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, honoring the histories and contributions of the many generations of Americans of Hispanic and Latin American heritage who have shaped, served, and enhanced our country and its institutions. In the words of President Biden’s proclamation,Latinos have helped chart America’s course since our start — as doctors and engineers; artists and entrepreneurs; and leaders in science, business, labor, government, and military and across grassroots movements.  Their faith and drive have pushed our country to grow, prosper, and pursue its highest ideals.” To help celebrate, below is a selection of NEH-funded projects, blog posts, Humanities magazine articles, and EDSITEment educational resources related to Hispanic and Latino/a history, literature, and culture.

NEH-Supported Projects:

A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community
Natalia Molina’s NEH Public Scholars book explores the hidden history of the Nayarit, a Mexican restaurant opened by Molina’s grandmother, Doña Natalia Barraza, in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood in 1951, and the community of Mexican immigrants it nourished with a sense of belonging.

Latino Americans
Latino Americans is the first major documentary to chronicle the rich and varied history and experiences of Latinos and their contributions to the United States. Beginning in the 16th century, Latino Americans interweaves the stories of historical figures with those living today to reveal the construction of a new American identity that connects millions of people. This landmark, NEH-supported, six-hour documentary is available to stream online at PBS.

Diego Rivera’s America
The NEH funded traveling exhibition Diego Rivera’s America recently finished its run at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in June, after opening at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2022. The exhibition—which brings together more than 150 of Rivera’s paintings, frescoes, and drawings—focuses on Rivera’s work from the 1920s to the mid-1940s, when he was conceiving a new vision for North America informed by his travels in Mexico and the U.S. Watch the opening lecture from Crystal Bridges exhibition’s opening lecture with guest curator, James Oles, online.

New York and the International Sound of Latin Music, 1940-1990
This NEH-funded book by Benjamin Lapidus explores the unwritten history of Spanish Caribbean music in New York City from 1940-1990. Using archival research, oral histories, interviews, and musicological analysis, Lapidus details how musicians collaborated to shape popular and folkloric genres.

Documents of Latin American and Latino Art
Supported by an NEH grant, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, expanded its digital archive of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art to include 10 art journals and 1,500 documents by notable Latin American and Latino artists, critics, curators, and historians, and improve the database’s functionality and search capabilities. This unique, bilingual archive provides free, universal access to thousands of primary source documents that are fundamental resources for Latin American and Latino studies.

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings
Listen to more than 125,000 songs celebrating North America’s Spanish-language musical heritage at the UCLA Frontera Collection. NEH has supported the digitization of the world’s largest collection of Mexican-American vernacular music to create a comprehensive website showcasing music recorded in the United States and Mexico between 1904 and 1994. Each entry includes digitized recordings alongside composer, musician, performer, and label information.

Oaxacalifornia: The Return
This NEH-supported documentary chronicles three generations of one American family who emigrated to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico, 40 years ago. The film explores what is lost and gained through immigration and assimilation through its in-depth study of the Mejía family members as they navigate what it means to be Mexican and American in this country.

Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art used an NEH grant to create a 10,000-square-foot traveling exhibition on the art of Colombia from 1500 BCE to present day. LACMA worked closely with the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Museo del Oro, and the Unidad de Artes y Otras Colecciones of the Banco de la Republica to bring together close to 400 works revealing the richness and diversity of Colombia’s Indigenous cultures. The exhibition is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until October 1, 2023.

Multimodal Corpus of Heritage Spanish
Researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park, are using an NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant to create the first annotated, bilingual, multimodal corpus of written and oral discourse produced by heritage speakers of Spanish in the U.S. The corpus will include speakers of different sociolinguistic generations of the understudied and underrepresented varieties of Spanish spoken in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. The open-source digital repository will serve as a resource for students, scholars, and educators in the field of Spanish as a heritage language (SHL).

Bracero History Archive
The NEH grant-supported Bracero History Archive collects and makes available the oral histories and artifacts pertaining to the Bracero program, a guest worker initiative that spanned the years 1942–1964. Millions of Mexican agricultural workers crossed the border under the program to work in more than half of the states in America. Hear their stories online.

Flora Borinqueniana: Three Centuries of Botanical Illustrations
An NEH grant supported the Para la Naturaleza’s traveling exhibition Flora Borinqueniana, a traveling exhibition on the development of botanical knowledge in Puerto Rico and its intersections with history, society, nature, and art. The exhibition takes visitors on a chronological journey through three centuries of local history paired with the history of botany in Puerto Rico from the late 18th century to the present day, guided by botanical illustrations, historical manuscripts, documents, art, and objects.

Latin American and Latino/a Studies at Wright College
With support from an NEH Humanities Initiatives at HSIs grant, the Wilbur Wright College of the City Colleges of Chicago has designed a curriculum focusing on Latin American and Latino/a Studies. The college has created a four-course certificate program that teaches students about Latin American and Latino history, arts and culture, and the social and political foundations of Latin American countries.

Community Pláticas in Rhode Island
NEH funding to Rhode Island Latino Arts is supporting a series of community conversations and the collection and archiving of personal stories, memories, and documents from the Rhode Island’s Latino community. Materials collected will become the source material for the creation of a series of dramatic readings and monologues to be performed by the Trinity Repertory Company.

Adios Amor: The Search for Maria Moreno
In Adios Amor, the discovery of lost photographs sparks the search for a hero that history forgot—Maria Moreno, a migrant mother driven by the hunger of her twelve children to speak out. Years before Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta launched the United Farm Workers, Maria picked up the only weapon she had—her voice—and became an outspoken leader as the first woman farm worker in America to be hired as a union organizer.

Aquí Estamos: Documenting the Latino Heritage of the South Carolina Low Country
With support from an NEH Common Heritage grant, the Citadel Military College of South Carolina and Lowcountry Digital Library digitized photographs, diaries, recipe books, and other community materials. These materials help document the history of the Latino communities in the South Carolina Lowcountry, as well as the continued efforts of local Latinos to organize politically.

Florida International University received an NEH Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant to support design and construction of the university’s CasaCuba, a 50,000-square-foot humanities center to host lectures, academic conferences, community events, and exhibits to further the study and public understanding of Cuban and Cuban-American Heritage.

Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America (AILLA)
NEH grants have helped fund the digitization of several collections at the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin American (AILLA) at the University of Texas, Austin. The AILLA aims to preserve cultural, historical, and ecological knowledge of South America and the endangered languages of Mexico and South America. The digital archive contains recordings, texts, and other multimedia materials in and about the Indigenous languages of Latin America.

Growing the Heart of Texas: Exploring the Role of Mexican Americans in Food Production and Rural Communities
This series of four interdisciplinary courses developed by Texas A&M University integrates the humanities and agricultural sciences to help students better understand the crucial social and economic roles played by Mexican Americans in the agricultural production and food culture in Texas.

The Slave Societies Digital Archive
The NEH-supported Slave Societies Digital Archive at Vanderbilt University details the lives of over four million African and African-descended people in the Atlantic World. The archive preserves and provides access to digitized ecclesiastical and secular records relating to enslaved and free persons of African origin and their descendants in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, and Spanish Florida from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries. This collection contains the most extensive serial records for the history of Africans in the Atlantic World, and also includes valuable information about the Indigenous, European, and Asian populations who lived alongside them. Read more about the Slave Societies Digital Archive (formerly called the Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies) at Humanities magazine.

Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons: A Story of Language, Race, and Belonging in the Early Americas
Kirsten Silva Gruesz used an NEH grant to tell a sweeping history of linguistic and colonial encounter in the early Americas, anchored by the unlikely story of how Boston’s most famous Puritan, Cotton Mather, came to write the first Spanish-language publication in the English New World, La Fe del Christiano (The Faith of the Christian), in 1699. Gruesz’ book examines the history of the Spanish language in the United States and explores the roots of latinidad in colonial America.

Unearthing St. Augustine’s Colonial Heritage
An NEH grant to the University of Florida enabled the digital preservation of over fragile 20,000 maps, drawings, photographs, and documents related to the history of colonial St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565 by Spanish conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. The project united archival materials of 18 cultural organizations to document 200 years of St. Augustine’s history as the capital of Spanish Florida in advance of the city’s 450th anniversary in 2015. Another recent NEH grant will support development of a database and online portal to archaeological material at the Florida Museum of Natural History dating from the 16th to 19th centuries.

Racial Uncertainties: Mexican Americans, School Desegregation, and the Making of Race in Post-Civil Rights America
NEH Reasearch Fellow Danielle Olden’s Racial Uncertainties examines the pivotal 1973 Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1 Supreme Court ruling on de facto racial segregation in public schools, and its connection to debates over Mexican-American racial identity.

Aloha Compadre: A History of the Latinxs Population in Hawai'i, 1832-2010
Rudy P. Guevarra, Jr. at Arizona State University received an NEH Summer Stipend to support work on a book on the migration of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Central Americans to Hawai’i between 1832 and 2010, and the Latino-Hawaiian culture that has developed over time.

Latin American/Latinx Studies at CUNY
An NEH Humanities Initiatives at Hispanic-Serving Institutions grant is supporting the expansion of the Latin American Studies program at CUNY’s LaGuardia Community College. The three-year project provides faculty opportunities to develop and expand their knowledge of the humanities in Latin America in order to help deepen and improve the range of courses offered at the college. Through this project LaGuardia Community College has developed a number of new humanities courses focusing on topics such as Latin American art, the music of Latin America, Caribbean literature, and Latin American literature in translation.

California’s Pobladores: Settlement and Community along the Spanish Frontier, 1769-1850
Steven W. Hackel at the University of California, Riverside, is using an NEH Fellowship to research and write a book about the first Mexican settlers to California within the context of other settler communities across colonial America.

Deep Mapping the Reducción: Building a Platform for Spatial Humanities Collaboration on the General Resettlement of Indians
With no alphabetic texts prior to 1532, understanding the Andean region of South America and the impact of the Spanish invasion presents unique difficulties for researchers. Increased usage of spatial humanities has been able to fill in some gaps for researchers in this area. With their NEH grant, Steven Aryln Wernke and Jeremy Mumford created two resources that help visualize the history of the Andes: Linked Open Gazetteer of the Andean Region (LOGAR) and Geospatial Platform for Andean Colonial History, Culture, and Archaeology (GeoPACHA).

Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes
Cleveland Museum of Art’s NEH-supported traveling exhibition on the Wari—the ancestors of the Inca who are often credited with creating South America’s first indigenous empire—detailed their startingly beautiful artworks alongside the development of their complex empire. With 150 objects, many of which had never been seen outside of their home countries, Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes was the first major exhibition in North America to document this significant and fascinating civilization.

Spectacular Wealth: The Festivals of Colonial South American Mining Towns
Lisa Voigt of Ohio State University used an NEH summer stipend to conduct research for her book, Spectacular Wealth: The Festivals of Colonial South American Mining Towns. Voigt’s book compares the communities of three colonial boomtowns in Brazil and Peru to reveal how festivals helped the people define themselves as more than just colonial subjects.

The Vanishing Frame: Latin American Culture and Theory in the Postdictatorial Era
Eugenio Di Stefano was awarded an NEH summer stipend to support work on The Vanishing Frame: Latin American Culture and Theory in the Postdictatorial Era, a book examining the work of artists such as Roberto Bolaño, Alejandro Zambra, Pablo Larraín, and Fernando Botero, and the movements in literature and art that emerged in the wake of long authoritarian regimes in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. The Vanishing Frame is the first book to challenge “postdictatorial aesthetics by focusing on the concept of aesthetic autonomy as a critique of economic inequality.”

Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile
Ángela Vergara’s Fighting Unemployment in Twentieth-Century Chile narrates the story of Chilean workers through periods of economic, political, and social instability during the twentieth century. Vergara documents how understandings of unemployment and welfare changed throughout the Great Depression and connects the changing relationship between Chileans and inequality throughout Chile’s history.

Explore Mesolore
Dive into the history of Mesoamerica with this bilingual online resource containing interactive maps, tutorials, and sixteenth-century Aztec and Mixtec archival materials.

The Making of Modern Brazil
Directed by Erika Robb Larkins of San Diego State University and Kathryn Sanchez of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “The Making of Modern Brazil” was an interdisciplinary three-week summer program for college and university teachers. Scholars gathered to study the historical, geographic, and cultural influences that have shaped modern Brazil.

Proyecto Arqueológico Zaña Colonial (PAZC)
An NEH Collaborative Research grant funded a 30-month archaeological survey and excavation at two sites in Peru’s Zaña Valley. Following the survey and excavation, historical research in Peru and Spain helped prepare for publications and a public website. Learn more about their research in “Mobilizing the Past for a Digital Future: The Potential of Digital Archeology.”

Ambitious Rebels: Remaking Honor, Law, and Liberalism in Venezuela, 1780-1850
Researched with support from an NEH Summer Stipend, Reuben Zahler’s book explores changes in honor, law, and political culture and how men and women reacted to those changes as Venezuela transitioned from Spanish colony to a modern republic.

NEH’s education website, EDSITEment, offers a curated selection of lesson plans, close readings, and classroom resources geared towards educators and families on a variety of topics. EDSITEment’s “Hispanic and Latino Heritage and History in the United States” Teachers’ Guide brings together curriculum and lesson plans, articles, and primary sources on events and experiences across Hispanic and Latino history and heritage. Additional resources include lesson plans for students in grades 6-8 on the novel Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Julia Alvarez’s novel In the Time of the Butterflies for high-schoolers; materials on Mexican holidays and traditions; a lesson plan on Dolores Huerta, César Chávez and the United Farm Workers and their legacy within the Chicano civil rights movement; a media resource on American farmworker and labor organizer Maria Moreno; classroom resources on the  Aztec and the Incan Empires; a “closer readings” overview of the Mexican Revolution; and a lesson plan that introduces younger students to Spanish-speaking groups, cultures, and countries through Spanish words related to “family.”

State Humanities Councils:
Throughout the United States, NEH partners with state and jurisdictional humanities councils to support local humanities events and projects, many of which focus on Hispanic/Latino heritage. Arizona will host Dia de los Muertos Storytelling with Zarco Guerrero throughout Hispanic Heritage Month at Mesa Public library. Two new exhibits will open in California including Afróntalo in San Bernardino and Climates of Inequality in Los Angeles. The California Humanities-funded documentary, SANSÓN AND ME, will premiere on PBS on September 19th. Following Fernando’s Footsteps: A Tale of Tampa’s “Invisible Immigrants” , supported by Florida Humanities, is on view at the Ybor City Museum State Park until November 11th. In Texas, you can celebrate Hispanic Heritage month by visiting Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy which will be on display until October 17th.

Blog Posts:

New Mexico, New Spain, Old Cultures: Historic Spanish-Language Newspapers in Chronicling America

Chronicling America travels to the Caribbean!

Tune In Tuesdays: New Roots: Latino Oral Histories

Tune In Tuesdays: Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings

Royal Mayan Tomb Discovered

The History of the Aztecs on their Terms: A Q&A with NEH Public Scholar Camilla Townsend

Humanities Magazine articles:

The United States of Mestizo

El Movimiento

Moldy Church Records in Latin America Document the Lives of Millions of Slaves

The Artists who Shaped Brazil

New Biography of Cesar Chavez Unearths Gritty Truth

Texting in Ancient Mayan Hieroglyphs

Mexic-Arte Museum

Artists Rule

Puerto Rico’s Juan González Lamela

Building a Bridge Without a Plan

Spanish Conquistadors and Mexican Vaqueros in the Lone Star State

The Art of Influence

New Money in New Spain

Modernism and Mexico

Roosevelt Montás on the Virtues of a Liberal Education

La Malinche, Hernán Cortés’s Translator and So Much More

Media Contacts: