Domino Players, Washington Heights, New York (1970) by Winston VargasSmithsonian American Art Museum
From areas bursting with the history of its Latino residents, to communities that have produced vibrant culinary influences and iconic celebrations of culture, take a virtual tour of these 9 Latino neighborhoods in the US you can explore with Street View.
Ybor City, Florida
In the late 1800s Ybor City was called the “Cigar Capital of the World” — home to 200 cigar factories, 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar makers) and the finest Cuban cigars in the US. The tabaqueros were principally from Cuba and Spain and, as a community, turned what was once an area of swamp and scrubland into a thriving neighborhood with opera houses, ballrooms, theaters and club houses. They also established a health system which is thought to be the earliest example of cooperative social medicine. The cigar industry eventually declined with the advent of modern manufacturing techniques and today Ybor City is a bustling Historic Landmark District.
El Pueblo de Los Ángeles, California
El Pueblo de Los Ángeles State Historic Park, in the oldest section of Los Angeles, is the location of some of the most significant cultural landmarks of L.A.’s diverse Latino population. Some of the iconic sites include; Olvera Street, once the heart of Mexican farming and community life and now where you’ll find a colorful Mexican marketplace, the historic La Placita church, David Alfaro Siqueiros’ 1932 mural América Tropical, and the Piñata District, where you can find more varieties of piñatas than you can shake a stick at.
If you take a walk around Pilsen in Chicago you are sure to notice the colorful murals and mosaics adorning the walls and buildings, reflecting the Latino culture and immigrant identity of the area’s inhabitants. The Mexican population of the neighborhood began to grow in the 1960s and at the same time artists began to depict the revolutionary history of the Mexican people and the issues they faced through art on the sides of buildings and viaducts. The residents of Pilsen also established their own community centers to sustain the strong cultural identity of the Pilsen community, such as Casa Aztlán, which provided meeting places and services for local residents, artists and activists.
Washington Heights, New York
Known for it’s hills, bodegas and mangú, Washington Heights is the main Dominican neighborhood in NYC. It is also the birthplace of the Dominican Day parade, which began in 1982 to celebrate Dominican culture, folklore and popular traditions with a day of music, speeches, and dancing — including the traditional forms of merengue, bachata, and mangulina. It was the brainchild of Miguel Amaro, a community activist who worked to promote Dominican values and instill pride and patriotism in New York’s Dominican population. Now, tens of thousands gather every year to honor their heritage and the contributions of the Dominican community.
El Segundo Barrio, Texas
El Paso sits on the Rio Grande river on the Mexican-American border and is joined by the Bridge of the Americas to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico. The two cities live in symbiosis, with many residents crossing between the two daily for shopping, for work, or for school. One of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso is El Segundo Barrio, which along with Barrio Chihuahuita, form two historic neighborhoods that characterize the Latino and Chicano culture of the city. It was here where families started arriving from Mexico to make a home in the United States. Reflecting the unique inter-connectedness of the cities, El Segundo Barrio is often referred to as the ‘Ellis Island of the Border’.
Calle Ocho, Florida
In the heart of Miami you’ll find Calle Ocho, the hub of the city’s Cuban community — known as Little Havana. It’s a dynamic neighborhood full of domino games in Máximo Gómez park, huge brightly painted roosters, and the sounds of son cubano and salsa music. Little Havana is also known for the Calle Ocho Festival, one of the largest Hispanic street festivals in the world, where different Latino communities come together to celebrate pride in their heritage. Revelers take to the streets wearing their countries flags, and even earned the festival a Guinness World Record for the world’s longest conga line in 1988.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio is known for many things; the Alamo, the Tower of the Americas — and more recently, a battle over breakfast tacos. A hot debate saw San Antonio contesting Austin as the origin of the breakfast taco after a blog emerged declaring the latter as the birthplace of the tasty treat. Some affronted fans of the food were quick to point out that it was the Mexican community in San Antonio that popularized the breakfast taco and have been serving them from neighborhood taco stands for decades. The mayor of San Antonio declared that the taco-off should be settled once and for all and travelled to Austin for a taste-test showdown. So who won? It was a forfeit — Austin didn’t show up to the competition.
Mount Pleasant, Washington D.C.
The Salvadoran influence in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood can be discerned by the array of pupuserias selling traditional Salvadoran pupusas; a thick corn tortilla stuffed with cheese, refried beans and cooked pork meat ground into a paste. The recipe was brought over by Salvadoran immigrants and is now so popular in the city that it’s been called the unofficial dish of Washington D.C. Another major symbol of the Salvadoran community living in Mount Pleasant is the Monseñor Óscar Romero apartment block. The residential building is proudly named after the Salvadoran leader who spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture — a hero to the Salvadoran population in the area.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a territory of the US located in the northeastern Caribbean. The richness of its culture has been greatly influenced by the island’s unique mix of heritages, including Taíno Indian, Spanish and African people and traditions. Puerto Rico's history can be seen in old San Juan, a UNESCO heritage site that dates back to the 1500s when the settlement was first established. The bright streets are lined with a rainbow of Spanish colonial buildings and the cobbled streets are colored blue, made from a stone called adoquine cast from furnace slag brought over on Spanish ships as ballasts.