16 Ways to Experience Spanish-Speaking Cultures around DC

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1.    Visit the Mexican Cultural Institute

Image from: http://www.instituteofmexicodc.org/mansion.php

The Mexican Cultural Institute is a landmark in Washington, DC, and has a fascinating history. Visit to see the Mansion’s murals, painted by a student of Diego Rivera, which curve throughout the beautiful building’s architecture. The institute has ongoing exhibits and talks, as well as the occasional culinary event and film showings. All cultural events are free and open to the public.

2.    Explore Modern Social and Political Art from the Americas

The Washington, DC region is rich in art galleries, and art by Latin-American artists is no exception: visit two galleries owned by the Organization of American States to explore multicultural, meaningful art.

Visit the Art Museum of the Americas, a space dedicated to art that encourages intercultural exchanges by featuring contemporary social and political issues. Past exhibits have included Libertad de Expresión, about modernism and the Cold War and Femininity Beyond Archetypes, an exploration of femininity in Colombian culture. Be sure to check events listings to attend their free gallery receptions!

The OAS F Street Gallery, open to the public by appointment, also features culturally-relevant art exhibits and events.

3.    Take a Walk

Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equestrian_of_Sim%C3%B3n_Bol%C3%ADvar

The National Park Service has created a (free) Latino American Heritage Walking tour that winds through the heart of the nation’s capital. Start at the Organization of American States, visiting the grounds to see statues of Latin American American figures such as Pablo Nerudo and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Wind your way down Virginia Avenue to see Simón Bolívar, Benito Juárez, and other important figures from the United States’ Latin American and Spanish cultural heritages. Along the way, call the National Park’s number 202-595-1730 to listen to an audio tour while you’re walking.

4.    Visit the Organization of American States Headquarters

Image from: http://www.oas.org/en/about/mnb1.asp

The Organization of American States (OAS) Headquarters is located in the heard of Washington, DC., and its main building and gardens are open to visitors. See the main conference room of the Consejo Permanente and its simultaneous translation booths; El Patio de la Casa de las Américas, a indoor garden featuring plants, stonework, and shields from throughout the Americas; and the Hall of Heroes, Galería de los Héroes, a balcony featuring heroes from throughout the Americas. Be sure to explore the gardens, which feature statues of poets, philosphers, and kings. Prepare for your visit by reviewing the OAS’s virtual tour online.

The OAS building can be entered during general business hours while meetings are not being held, but entrance is limited to small groups. Official ID is required to enter the building.

5.    Watch Music and Dance Performances

Image from: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/bfa/galeria-fotos-y-videos-imagenes-20-anos-de-ballet-flamenco-de-andalucia/

Celebrate the modern and traditional musical arts of Spain through the Embassy of Spain’s Arts and Culture programming: see everything from the annual Flamenco Festival to Mallorcan artist Buika’s stunning jazz performances.

Image from: http://www.as-coa.org/sites/default/files/styles/event_detail/public/4-4%20ginastera%20event.jpg?itok=phr_BhxE

The America’s Society concerts program features artists from around the Americas, from Cuban guitarists to choral ensembles. Student tickets are typically $10.00: be sure to check the website for information about specific performances.

6.    Switch up Your Caffeine Habit

Image from: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/juan-valdez-cafe-washington?select=rYHVZaCcz7b_I8Poe-auEA

Try something new with your morning coffee: start at Juan Valdez in Foggy Bottom to try a salteña or pan de guava with your cardamom coffee. (Read here about how Juan Valdez himself visited Washington, DC in 2011!) Missing your Spanish cortado? Stop by Retrospect Coffee and Tea for a European coffee experience.

7.    Attend a Cultural or Literary Lecture

Image from: http://www.as-coa.org/sites/default/files/styles/event_detail/public/PoetryFestival.jpg?itok=dovGvmzp

Listen to guest lecturers and experts visiting Washington, DC, from around the Spanish-speaking world. Many lectures are free and include receptions to discuss the lecture content afterward! Start with the Library of Congress’s Hispanic Reading room’s lecture series, featuring some of the Spanish-speaking world’s best authors and poets, including the SLLC’s own Professor Emeritus Jorge Aquilar Mora. Look into the Council of the Americas literature program for regularly-scheduled book readings, poetry festivals, and theater discussions.

If your interests are more political, attend a panel at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University: event topics range from international affairs to Latino influence on US election politics.

8.    Try New Recipes

Image from: https://www.facebook.com/megafarmersmarket/

The area around College Park is full of Latin culture: head down University Boulevard to visit Mega Farmer’s Market, a Latin American grocery store, to try fruits, vegetables, spices, and flavors from throughout the Americas. Thinking about making paella or trying some jamon iberico? Head to PescaDeli in Bethesda to find fresh fish and delicacies from Spain.

9.Understand the Roots of Latin American Cultures through Art

Image from: http://www.as-coa.org/exhibitions/rent-consuelo-casta%C3%B1eda

The Visual Arts at the Americas Society gallery features art from the Americas, with contemporary and historical exhibitions. Attend an event such as an art appreciation panel or a tour of the gallery, or visit to see exhibits such as Hemispheres: A Labyrinth Sketchbook, “delv[ing] into the relationship between the body (personal) and identity (collective)”, or Xul Solar and Jorge Luis Borges: The Art of Friendship, exploring the relationship between two cultural figures of twentieth century Argentina.

10.  Try a Classic Spanish or Latin American Dish

Images from: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/churreria-madrid-washington?select=euiYT7-jYLbRHswd_t9lhg, http://lacasitapupusas.com/about-us/3194363, and http://www.samanthasrestaurante.com/gallery.html

Start with some Salvadoran pupusas and cuisine for a light lunch at La Casita Pupusas in Silver Spring, making sure to wander the attached Latin food market. Have dinner at Sardi’s Chicken in College Park, trying some of the best Peruvian chicken and lomo saltado in the region. Try Samatha’s in Silver Spring for some authenic Mexican cuisine. Out late at night downtown with friends? Stop by the Spanish Churreria Madrid in Adams Morgan to grab some bocadillos if you’re hungry, or split a dozen churros to fulfill your sweet tooth!

11.  Catch Some Shows in Spanish.

Image from: https://www.facebook.com/teatrogala/photos_stream

Both Gala Hispanic Theater and Teatro de la Luna bring such diverse performances as comedy, drama, music, stand-up, magic shows, Spanish literary classics, and dance to Washington DC stages. Be sure to check for student-priced tickets, especially at Teatro de la Luna, and festival deals.

12.  Watch a Movie

Craving some Spanish films while waiting for the next Pragda film festival? Look for Spanish-language films (with student ticket prices) at the Latin American Film Festival in at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring! Also check out the Festival of New Spanish Cinema, an annual festival sponsored by the Embassy of Spain.

13.  Visit the National Portrait Gallery

Image: Dolores Huerta with bullhorn / by Jon Lewis / Photograph, 1965 / Copyright Yale Collection of Western Americana, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery displays portraits and historical information in a unique and personal way – check their list of Hispanic Portraits from the Catalog of American Portraits to find unique Hispanic historical figures and influences on American culture in their collections!

14.  Learn to Dance

Image from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/codnewsroom/16375464297

Want to learn to dance salsa, flamenco, or tango? The DC area and UMD offer many resources for classes and drop-in dance nights! Start with UMD’s own Ballroom at Maryland to get started with classes and social dancing! Don’t have time for classes? Look for social dances, which usually start with a beginner’s lesson at places like the Glen Echo Spanish Ballroom, or stop by Cuban restaurant Habana Village for a drop-in salsa lesson alongside some classic Cuban food!

15.  Celebrate at a Festival

Miller, T. (2015). Batala Percussion Band [Photograph].

Retrieved from http://dc.about.com/od/specialeventphotos1/ss/FiestaDC.htm#step5

Washington, DC has several large Spanish-speaking festivals every year. Visit the National Fiesta DC, or the regional (but just as exciting) Hispanic Festival in Prince George’s County to hear try food from many Spanish-speaking countries, hear live music, see dancing performances, and dance yourself!

16.  Check out the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress

Image from: http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/

The Library of Congress’s Hispanic Reading Room is designed to reflect Spanish and Portuguese Renaissance architecture, and it features the Brazilian murals and traditional Mexican talavera tiles. Use their resources to explore Mexican Revolution newspaper clippings, listen to the voices of the Spanish-speaking literary world from Juan Ramón Jiménez to Gabriela Mistral with the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape, and more! Get your start using the Handbook of Latin American Studies.

Also, consider the Library of Congress’s Iberian, Latin American, Caribbean, and Hispanic/Latino studies internship programs (paid and volunteer positions available).

Bonus Resources!

The DC area has multiple organizations dedicated to the study of Latin American cultures: check out these websites for inspiration.

Visit the Latin American Studies Center at UMD for conferences, discussions, and research happening right here on campus.

For current events programming and cultural events around the city, look at Hola Cultura’s regularly-updated website and weekly newsletter.

The Smithsonian Latino Center may not have a physical museum to visit, but they organize musical and cultural events, host a virtual Latino Cultural Heritage Museum, and they offer graduate and undergraduate internships and research and educational programming.