Philadelphia's Mexican Independence Day Festival (Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia) Mexican Independence Day Festival
Philadelphia's Mexican Independence Day Festival (Credit: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia)

From Philly to Pittsburgh, cities throughout Pa. are holding celebrations to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans and the growing diversity of our state.

The Hispanic population in the US is growing rapidly, and that’s especially true in Pennsylvania. 

Between 2010 and 2020, the Hispanic population in our state grew by nearly half—45.8 percent. Though most Hispanics live on the eastern side of the state, almost every PA county saw an increase in its Hispanic population in the last decade.

We should cheer the increasing diversity of our state, and one way to do so is to take part in celebrations marking National Hispanic Heritage Month, which takes place from September 15 to October 15. It may seem odd that the heritage month includes half of September and half of October, but that’s because Hispanic Heritage Month coincides with the Independence Day celebrations of a handful of Latin American countries. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15, Mexico commemorates its independence on September 16 (not on Cinco de Mayo), Chile celebrates its independence on September 18, and Belize celebrates on September 21.

Pennsylvanians across the state—Hispanic and non-Hispanic—have already begun celebrating the contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to the country. Read on to learn how you too can celebrate the art, culture, labor, friendship, and knowledge that Hispanic Americans bring each day of the year to Pennsylvania. ¡Vamos!

Philadelphia

The biggest urban center in the state pulls out all the stops to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. Over the next month, Philly will be host to a number of festivals, art exhibits and events, culinary experiences, and more, all to celebrate the Hispanic community. 

You can view the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which takes over Benjamin Franklin Parkway with dancing and other revelry, on Sunday, September 25. And more than 20 restaurants take part in the city’s Dine Latino Restaurant Week, an opportunity for foodies to get a free dessert or appetizer (with the purchase of two entrees) at Latinx-owned restaurants. We recommend Bar Bombón, where you can try new flavors based on traditional Puerto Rican recipes.

Reading

The city of Reading is home to the largest Hispanic population in the state—just over two-thirds of residents have Hispanic backgrounds. 

The GoggleWorks Center for the Arts in Reading is hosting a photo exhibition of the work of photographers Joe Conzo, Jr. (who gained notoriety for his photos of urban activism, art, and change in the 70s and 80s) and Don Carrick (a local Berks County photographer telling stories through photos). The exhibition, Las Caras (The Faces), runs through October 15. Reading is also hosting a Puerto Rican Day Parade as well as the Berks Cultural Diversity Festival.

Allentown and the Lehigh Valley

Allentown is another city attracting new Hispanic residents and serving as home to long-time Hispanic residents; Hispanics make up more than half of the city’s population.

The PA Latino Convention, where Pennsylvanians meet to plan how best to meet the needs of the state’s Latinx community, will be hosted in Allentown from September 29 to October 1. 

Around the same time as the convention, Allentown will play host to the inaugural Lehigh Valley Latino Restaurant Week—which will run for three weeks, with each week hosted in a different city. Bethlehem hosts the restaurant week September 15 to 23, Allentown hosts September 24 to 30, and finally the event will move to Easton between September 30 and October 6. Check out the list of participating restaurants. The Allentown list of restaurants hasn’t dropped yet, but while you wait, you can pick up some Puerto Rican sweet treats like the coconut pudding tembleque at Allentown’s Luna’s Bakery.

State College

On October 8, State College is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the Happy Valley Latin Festival, which will feature live music, food, arts and crafts vendors, children’s activities, and more.

Being near the campus of a large university also has its perks. The Penn State Center for the Performing Arts will present the Miguel Zenón Quartet, headed by saxophonist and composer Zenón, performing Música de las Américas on October 11. The center will also host a performance of the Cuban Malpaso Dance Company on September 29.

Clemente Museum
Pittsburgh’s Clemente Museum (Credit: The Clemente Museum)

Pittsburgh

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month in Pittsburgh is special, because the city’s new Latin American Cultural Center will first open to the public on September 20. The center will serve as a museum displaying art of Latin America and the Caribbean, and it will also showcase dance, music, and film events that highlight the different cultures of Latin America. When the center opens, you can view a mural created by Mexican artist Jorge González Camarena in 1965, an exhibit on Maya culture, and a permanent exhibit displaying the history and cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In addition, Pittsburgh is always a destination to celebrate and learn more about “The Great One”—Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates for 18 seasons. He was one of the first Latin American baseball players in the U.S., starting for the Pirates in 1955. Forced to endure racism, Clemente spoke out for Latin American and Black baseball players until his untimely death in a plane crash in 1972. He was traveling to Puerto Rico to give aid after a devastating earthquake.Pittsburgh enshrines Clemente’s memory with his name adorning the bridge that leads to PNC Park, home of the Pirates. Also in the city is a museum dedicated to Clemente’s life and legacy, the Clemente Museum