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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month – 5 Composers to Know

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

Celebrating Latin American Heritage, Arts, and Culture

Peruvian Dancers
Peruvian Dancers

In the United States, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 is observed as National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating the diverse histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, Central American, and South American descent. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill creating Hispanic Heritage Week which later was expanded to a 30-day Hispanic Heritage Month under President Ronald Reagan in 1988. The 30-day period spanning from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 includes the anniversaries of independence for many Latin American nations including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chili as well as Indigenous People’s Day which honors the cultures and contributions of indigenous peoples.

Photo Unsplash @srz Sydney Rae
Photo Unsplash @srz Sydney Rae

To celebrate, many cities and towns across the United States hold local celebrations and ceremonies to commemorate the contributions of Hispanic Americans. The Smithsonian Latino Center offers online resources for including virtual exhibits and musical performances and other cultural events via their Youtube channel. You may also wish to visit a local museum of Latin American arts and culture in your local area. We have two right here in Chicagoland—the National Museum of Mexican Art and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture and both of which offer free admission!

Latin American cultural contributions are is no way be reduced to a short list or article. Even if we only focus on musicians or visual artists we will find a wide variety of top-notch artists across who create and created music and arts across genres, styles, time periods, and through the different lenses of diverse life experiences.

So, in today’s post, we are celebrating Latin American composers of music for concert hall, stage, and screen. These composers are listed chronologically, and this is by no means an exhaustive or complete list. You may wish to listen to the accompanying playlist on Spotify or Apple Music where you will find selections by other Latin American composers including American composers Lena Frank (b. 1972) and Clarice Assad (b. 1978), Chilean-born Canadian composer Cristobal Tapia de Veer (b. 1973), as well as Cuban composer and guitarist Leo Brouwer, who studied in the United States, among others.

Apple Music Playlist

Spotify Playlist

Besides listening to music by these composers and others like them to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, I urge you to seek out indigenous folk music of the peoples who have lived in what we currently call “Latin America” before the Spanish colonization as well as popular music from Latin American artists while we celebrate. Use this month as a starting point and explore the Latin American stories in the United States. As Dr. Geraldo Cadava, historian and director of Latino and Latina American Studies at Northwestern University said,

“I wish that in some ways there weren't a need for something like Hispanic Heritage Month because we would be recognized, every day, all year long, every year…I’m waiting for this moment when Americans broadly come to think of Latino history as American history at large, and therefore every day becomes a celebration of Latino history because that is American history.”

Teresa Carreño – Prodigious Pianist