Public Programs

Past Programs

The programs listed below represent the museum's past Latino history-related public programs. For current and upcoming Latino history programs, please see the museum's Latino History topic page

Panels and Conferences

Latino Immigration Cart | Weekly

The Latino Immigration Cart began operating on a weekly basis on the Museum floor since the reopening in 2008. It is primarily staffed with Program in Latino History and Culture interns and volunteers. The immigration cart enables visitors of all backgrounds to better understand the long and complex history of Latinos in the United States. Objects in use on the cart include: Abuelita Mexican Chocolate, a short-handled hoe, aprons, foreign currency, and a Quinceañera pillow among others.

Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues | October 15-16, 2015 

Latinos and Baseball: In the Barrios and the Big Leagues project kicked off with Eduardo Díaz, director of the Smithsonian Latino Center, moderating a panel discussion on baseball as a social and cultural force within Latino communities across the nation. Panelists included Adrian Burgos of the University of Illinois, Jose Alamillo and Cesar Caballero of California State University, and Sarah Gould and Priscilla Leiva of the University of Texas. 

  • Project Website (link coming soon)
  • Flickr

What It Means to Be American: The 1965 Immigration Act That Became the Law of Unintended Consequences | October 2, 2015 

On the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Immigration Act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, Zócalo Public Square and the Smithsonian Institution convened a panel of scholars to discuss the intended and unintended consequences of the civil rights legislation. While the act repealed discriminatory practices against Southern and Eastern European immigrants, and welcomed new immigrants on the basis of high skills and family unification, the legislation created tensions among other immigrant communities. The Hart-Celler Act changed the trajectory of immigration to the United States and how we view it today.

Food Fridays: Hispanic-Heritage Month September 2015

The National Museum of American History explored history through the blend of cultures that make Latin America with Chef Alex Strong, Ernesto Cadima, Anna Norman, Brain Patterson, and Sous Chef Angie Rosada throughout Hispanic Heritage Month. We tasted the cocina criolla, came to understand the American love for Mexican cuisine, Spain’s culinary influence on Latin American food, and the role of maize in North and Latin American tradition.

Conversations on Latino/as and the ADA | July 24, 2015 

As a part of the Americans with Disabilities Act Festival, professors, activists, and professionals from across the country took on the historical and cultural issues related to how disability has been understood among Latino/as in the United States in three panels: “The History and Political Dynamics of Policy and Services,” “The History of Cultural Issues Related to Disability and Latino/as,” and “Activism and Advocacy.”

  • Latino/as and Disability Facts (link coming soon)

What It Means to Be American: Ritchie Valens, Selena, and Filming the American Dream | May 29, 2015

Producer Moctesuma Esparza and writer-director Luis Valdez were hosted by Zócalo Public Square and the Smithsonian Institution for a panel, moderated by film critic Claudia Puig, on the presence of Latinos in films from the 1920s to the present day. 

What It Means to Be American: The Women of the West | January 14, 2015 

When we think of the West, we do not think of it is a place where women stretched gender roles, likely due to the immortalization of cowboys and outlaws in Wild West films. However, the West took the lead on many women’s rights. The first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, and the first Latina CEO of Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chávez, discussed what it means to be a Western woman and achieving the honorable status of “the first” at the kick-off of the What It Means to Be American initiative. The initiative is a collaboration between the National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square aimed to engage the American public to explore the development and identity of the nation.

Feeding America: Labor, Politics, and Food | February 23, 2013

The National Museum of American History presented a public program addressing issues of labor and food production throughout the history of the United States. The program began with the film Harvest of Loneliness by award winning director Gilbert Gonzales and was followed by a conversation with scholars Matt Garcia, Donald Mitchell, Melanie DuPuis and Museum curator Steve Velasquez. The program concluded with a book signing inside FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibition. 

Taco Nation/ Planet Taco | February 9, 2013 

In partnership with the Smithsonian Latino Center, the National Museum of American History presented an engaging conversation about the origins, transformation and consumption of Mexican food in the United States. Taco Nation/Planet Taco featured a conversation between authors Gustavo Arellano and Jeffry Pilcher moderated by the Museum curator of the FOOD exhibition, Rayna Green. The event took place in Warner Bros Theater and was webcasted. A highlight of the program was a Taco Rodeo, featuring three DC-based taco truck on the Constitution curb of the museum. The program concluded with a book signing inside the FOOD: Transforming the American Table exhibition. Over 300 visitors thoroughly enjoyed the food and the conversation.

20th Anniversary of the Mt. Pleasant Disturbance of 1991 Panel Discussion | May 8, 2011

The 20th anniversary of the Mt. Pleasant riots, which unfolded over a course of three days, was discussed and reflected on during an onstage conversation. The panel was moderated by José Sueiro, former publisher of La Nación newspaper, and included former D.C. mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon, former D.C. chief of police Isaac Fulwood, Jr., NMAH curator and Mt. Pleasant resident Olivia Cadaval, former head of the Latino Civil Rights Task Force Pedro Avilés, and activist Marco Del Fuego. Both the context that spurred the riots and the effects of the events were discussed. Though details of the events still remain in contention, the riots began when an African American police officer shot a 30-year-old Salvadoran immigrant. After protests and demonstrations grew violent, then-mayor Pratt declared a curfew in hopes of curbing chaos in the streets. However, when looting and setting fire to police cruisers ensued, tear gas was shot into the rioters and 230 people were arrested. The mob disbanded on the third night but the event remains an important moment for Latinos in D.C.

Considering the Afro-Latin@ Experience | February 26, 2011

The Museum and the Smithsonian Latino Center jointly presented a round-table conversation about the experiences of Black Latinos in the United States in conjunction with the release of “The Afro-Latin@ Reader.” Panelists included the editors, Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores, contributing author María Rosario Jackson, and DC-based activist Roland Roebuck.

Mexican Revolution Centennial Symposium | September 23-25, 2010

In 2010, to commemorate the Mexican Revolution’s centennial, the PLHC presented three days of programming in Carmichael Auditorium. An academic conference with presentations and panel discussions was followed by artist and poet Guillermo Gomez-Peña, who presented his latest work, “Strange Democracy,” which was inspired by the events of Mexico’s bicentennial of independence from Spain and the centennial of the Revolution. At the end of the symposium, mariachis presented corridos, or ballad-style songs based on historical or heroic events.

More than Malbec: The Story of Argentine Wine | September 9, 2010

This round-table conversation, presented by the Museum and the Smithsonian Latino Center, featured Laura Catena of the pioneering Catena family from Mendoza and Washington Post wine critic David McIntyre. The panelists discussed the fascinating history of wine making and the wine industry in Argentina, its relationship to the development of the U.S. industry, and the impact of Argentine wines on the U.S. market today. Nora Favelukes from Wines of Argentina, a trade association, moderated the program which was followed by a book signing and reception.

The Legacy of Operation Pedro Pan: A Roundtable Conversation | May 3, 2010

From 1960 to 1962 more than 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban children were brought to the United States through a U.S. government program. This massive exodus of unaccompanied minors is the largest recorded in the Western Hemisphere and is known as Operation Pedro Pan. This roundtable conversation discussed the program’s legacy from multiple perspectives. The panelists included Jacqueline Bhabha, lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, and Director of Research at the François- Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard; Maria de los Angeles Torres, director and professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Chicago; Emilio Cueto, attorney now retired; and Eloisa Echazabal, Assistant to the Campus President at Miami Dade College (MDC) Medical Campus. Dick Lobo, director of the International Broadcasting Bureau of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors, moderated.

Spanish Vanguard Cuisine and its Influence in the United States and the World: With Chefs José Andrés and Wylie Dufresne | April 7, 2009

This onstage conversation, organized by the Museum, the Embassy of Spain, and the Smithsonian Latino Center, explored the emergence of Spanish Vanguard Cuisine and its global influence. José Andrés, who is internationally recognized for his culinary innovations in bringing both traditional and avant-garde Spanish fare to the United States, was one of the panelists. He directs the creative teams behind several D.C. restaurants such as: Café Atlántico, Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel, and MiniBar. This program also featured Wylie Dufresne, a disciple of Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and a leading American proponent of Vanguard Cuisine, which is the movement to introduce new techniques and sciences in the preparation and delivery of food.

La Causa: The Delano Grape Strike, 1965-1970 | September 2005

The panel discussion celebrated the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the Delano Grape Strike.The panel of notable figures in this historic strike was moderated by NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa. The panel included Luis Valdez, founder of El Teatro Campesino; Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and cofounder of the United Farm Workers; Andrew Imutan, past vice president of United Farm Workers Organizing Committee; and Representative Rául Grijalva (D-Ariz.).The end of the program was punctuated by Dolores Huerta leading the inspired program attendees in a collective “Sí Se Puede!” (yes, we can!) chant, the rallying cry of the United Farm Workers.

From Segregation to Equal Opportunity: The Impacts of Mendez v. Westminster | September 2004

The Museum hosted a panel entitled, “From Segregation to Equal Opportunity: The Impacts of Mendez v. Westminster.” Civil rights activist Sylvia Mendez, a 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and the plaintiff in the landmark Mendez v. Westminster School District case was featured on the panel. Her family's win against the Westminister School District desegregated California schools and helped pave the way for Brown v. the Board of Education. Other panelists included Hector Flores, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens and James Ferg-Cadina, interim regional counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Rachelle Brown, Assistant General Counsel of the Smithsonian Institution, moderated the panel. The presentation also coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Readings and Interviews

Sandra Cisneros on Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead | November 1, 2014 

The National Museum of American Indian, Smithsonian Latino Center, and National Museum of American History welcomed author and artist Sandra Cisneros to read from A House of My Own: Stories of My Life, as a part of the Día de los Muertos Family Festival. It also celebrated the Day of the Dead-inspired installation, A Room of Her Own, which opened on October 31, 2014 at the National Museum of American History.

Oral History Interview with Diosa Costello | August 2011

Often referred to as the original “Latin Bombshell,” the Museum collected the oral history of singer, dancer and actress Diosa Costello. The interview was conducted by curators Dwight Bower and Marvette Pérez at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas’ Black Box Theatre. Costello, born in Guayama, Puerto Rico, moved to New York’s Spanish Harlem with her family in her early teens. Her dream was to break into show business and she eventually did just that, performing with the then-undiscovered conga player, Desi Arnaz. In 1939, Costello became the first Latina to appear on Broadway. Costello’s distinct style, talent and beautiful voice were featured in Broadway hits like “Too Many Girls” and “South Pacific.” The museum was honored to collect the history of this pioneer of music, film and theater and received a donation of 11 of Costello’s costumes for the museum collections.

In His Own Words: A Conversation with Junot Díaz | September 17, 2010

In this energetic program, NPR journalist Felix Contreras interviewed widely-acclaimed and celebrated author Junot Díaz about his 2007 novel, “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. Díaz spoke about his life, family, migration, the Dominican American experience and the creative writing process. This program was organized jointly by the Museum, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, and the Smithsonian Latino Center.

“Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964” Poetry Reading | September 2009

Poets Diana Garcia and QuiQue Aviles read portions of their own poetry in the exhibition space where “Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program 1942-1964” was presented in 2009-2010. The exhibition has since traveled throughout museums in the United States. Garcia, a Latina poet and professor of humanities and communication at California State University, Monterey Bay, read from her poetry collection, “When Living was a Labor Camp.” Aviles, a Salvadoran-American poet and performer, read from his collection, “The Immigrant Museum.”

Film and Theater

Film: Harvest of Empire | October 8, 2014

The National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Latino Center screened the award-winning 2012 feature-length documentary Harvest of Empire. Based on the book by journalist Juan González of Democracy Now!, the film features real-life stories and rare archival footage, as it examines the political events, social conditions, and U.S. government actions that led millions of Latino families to leave their homelands in an unprecedented wave of migration. The program included a panel discussion and audience Q&A. Panelists included the film’s co-director, Eduardo López, political science professor María De Los Angeles Torres (University of Illinois at Chicago) and curator Margaret Salazar-Porzio (National Museum of American History). 

Theater: La Buena Vida | September 2010

During Hispanic Heritage Month 2010, over 1,500 museum visitors were able to step into the radio broadcast studio of New Mexican Fabiola Cabeza de Baca in “La Buena Vida.” Ms. De Baca was a teacher, home economics specialist, and cultural broker who collected and authored many books and cookbooks about rural New Mexican life in the early 20th-century. The museum presented “La Buena Vida,” a short theater presentation based on the life and work of Cabeza de Baca, who was born in New Mexico in 1894. Visitors had a chance to discuss agriculture, home economics, and hear about the power of personal stories as they became part of the live studio audience at Cabeza de Baca’s 1930s and 1940s radio broadcasts.

Theater: David Farragut | Fall 2009

In fall 2009, the National Museum of American History partnered with the Theatre Program to present the life and story of David Farragut, the first U.S. Navy Admiral and a little known Hispanic hero, from September 18 to November 1.

Film: Walkout | June 15, 2006

The Museum presented the program, “A Case for Equal Education: Los Angeles High School Walkouts in 1968,” which featured award-winning producer Moctesuma Esparza and his recent film Walkout, based on the true story of the East Los Angeles high school walkouts. Esparza was one of the students who staged a walkout to protest the injustices of the public high school system in East Los Angeles. Following the two-hour film, Esparza discussed how he was inspired to produce it. A special guided tour of Separate is Not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education, was led by exhibition curator Harry Rubenstein before the film and discussion.

Festivals and Celebrations

Food History Weekend | October 22-24, 2015

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History brought together culinary leaders, researchers, practitioners, and scholars to inspire Museum visitors to understand the history of food in America. This October the history of innovations in American food were examined. What did “innovation” mean historically in terms of food production and preparation? What does it mean in today’s food world? These questions were explored through panels, live cooking demonstrations, book signings, and more. Featuring food experts: J. Kenji López-Alt, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, Mariano Ramos, Neftali Duran, and Pati Jinich.  

Raise It Up! America Innovates: Naturalization Ceremony | Annually in June

Cosponsored with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Raise It Up! celebrates new citizens from different countries, including: Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Honduras, Canada, and more, in a naturalization ceremony in the Museum’s Flag Hall. America’s democratic and economic systems continue to be strengthened by the diversity and ingenuity of our citizenry. To honor the contributions of our diverse citizenry, the German-born Sebastian Thrun was awarded the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal.

Central American Traditions Festivals | May 2006 & September 2012

In 2006 and 2012, the Museum celebrated Central American heritage with day-long festivals. Both celebrations featured musical guests, arts and craft projects, and food. These Central American Traditions Festivals highlighted and included D.C. Latino communities.

Día de los Muertos Festivals | October/November, 2004-2009

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated throughout Latin America and other places inhabited by Latino people, including Europe and the United States. From 2004 to 2009, PLHC helped the National Museum of American History celebrate Día de los Muertos with family activities, performances, concerts, food and crafts.

¡Azucar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz” Opening Festival | May 2005

The opening of the exhibition “¡Azúcar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz” was celebrated with a festival that included an afternoon of salsa music, dance performances and dance lessons. Thousands of visitors grooved and moved to Edwin Ortiz y Su Orquesta La Romana performing along with DJ Bruno. Eileen Torres led a variety of salsa and merengue lessons for all ages and the dance troupe Trabuco demonstrated club-style salsa dancing. Cantaré’s Evaluna, an ensemble composed of four women musicians, performed an interactive concert about folk music traditions from Latin America. Families also enjoyed craft activities and were able to taste traditional Cuban dishes prepared by Restaurant Associates.


Afro-Cuban Jazz | October 16-17, 2015 

To kick off the new season “in full swing,” the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO) celebrated the unique sound and development of Afro-Cuban jazz. An innovative sound that shook up jazz 70 years ago, Cuban and jazz music have maintained a healthy marriage through the political challenges of the past 50 years. The concert featured music from pioneering musicians in Latin jazz, including Chano Pozo (1915-48), Mario Bauza (1911-93), Machito (1908-84) and many other influential composers and performers of this powerful blend of American and Cuban music. On October 17th SJMO was joined onstage by special guest, the Smithsonian's new Secretary, Dr. David Skorton.

Latin Jazz | Every April

The Museum celebrates Jazz Appreciation Month every April with concerts, workshops, films, discussions and more. PLHC, the Smithsonian Latino Center, and other groups work together to incorporate Latin Jazz artists into the celebration.

The Star Spangled Banner en Español | September 29, 2012

In 1945, Peruvian immigrant Clotilde Arias was commissioned by the State Department a singable translation of the Star Spangled Banner. Since there are no records that the National Anthem was ever sang in Spanish, the Museum commissioned local award winning chorus, Coral Cantigas, to studio record it for our exhibition. A public performance also took place in Flag Hall; it was attended by about 300 people.

American Music at American History | July 2005

The Program in Latino History and Culture produced a four-part performance series in July 2005 on Latin American and Caribbean musical traditions related to salsa in conjunction with the exhibition ¡Azúcar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz and as part of NMAH’s “American Music at American History” series. Performers included Ashé Moyubba, Yaya Ensemble, Alma Moyo, Los del Barrio, Canelaz, Conjunto Folklorico Alianza Dominicana, and Bio Ritmo.