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Celebrate Arizona’s Hispanic and Latino Heritage

June 28, 2011

Arizona proudly reflects long lines of Latino and Hispanic heritage for visitors to experience from celebratory fiestas, and festivals to southwest style cuisine, art and architecture, each expresses the vibrancy of the state’s rich and dynamic history. Visitors and locals alike embrace roots which run as deep as the Grand Canyon itself.


The CALA Alliance, educating and inspiring people everywhere about the richness of Arizona’s Latino cultural heritage, will host the inaugural Celebración Artística de las Américas Festival. To take place September 14th through November 16, 2011 CALA pays tribute to life lived throughout Arizona. Featuring music, events, exhibits, and live performances the CALA Festival is anchored by a bi-annual arts and cultural festival. Share in the joy and beauty that surrounds the cultural life of the Americas as the first CALA festival celebrates and enriches the arts and cultivates cultural understanding between the people of the Americas with CALA this fall.

September 15th marks Mexican Independence Day and the kick-off of Hispanic Heritage Month. Offering a wonderful artisanal shopping experience year round, and an especially merry Mexican Independence Day, is Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village in the red rock country of Sedona, Arizona. Fashioned authentically after a traditional Mexican village, Tlaquepaque with its fine tiled fountains, and over-arching balconies is known as, “The Art and Soul of Sedona.” Streets flower strewn, and filled with the footsteps of fiery flamenco dancers, resound with the music and spirit of the strolling mariachi, during the 38th annual Fiesta del Tlaquepaque to take place September 10, 2011. Here, visit with the village’s artists, each representing one of the unique galleries, shops, or exhibits among the charming courtyards, and patios comprising Tlaquepaque. “The artists at the Fiesta are a great expression of the diversity, artistry and spirit of the community,” says Wendy Lippman, Tlaquepaque General Manager and Resident Partner. 

The last weekend of October, communities across Arizona come to life for the Mexican celebration, Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos. This traditional holiday commemorates the dead and honors ancestry through the creation of an offerenda or offering to display in the home. A spellbinding blend of dancers and stilt-walkers costumed as skeletons, march to drummers’ beats through downtown Tucson for the All Souls Procession, November 6, 2011. Watch or join in as people create a human powered parade, moving through the streets carrying photographs, wearing giant masks, skeleton make-up, costumes, or clothing belonging to loved ones. This ever popular procession has now become an entire All Souls Weekend celebrating and mourning lives of loved ones past. Sprinkled through Tucson, offerendas displaying music and art reflect the city’s colorful arts and heritage scene. 

Also a lively expression of community, The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff will celebrate the Day of the Dead with the 8th Annual Celebraciones de la Gente, the last weekend of October. More than a dozen local families feature a display of offerendas in the museum’s courtyard. Vibrant expressions of mariachi music, arts, and storytelling teach about migration and the blending of cultural traditions of Latino and Hispanic origins.  

Enjoy the beauty of the desert in the fall while listening to your favorite salsa, mambo or Spanish guitar song. Situated at the base of a beautiful mountain butte, The Desert Botanical Garden of Phoenix brings the Music in the Garden Fall Concert Series. The romantic blends of Spanish guitar and authentic Flamenco by internationally celebrated Acoustic Guitarist, Domingo DeGrazia bring the spirit of the southwest to life. Commemorating Dia de los Muertos, the staple of the band Calexico, Sergio Mendoza creates a supernatural musical experience as he and his band sing and dance on stage dressed as skeletons. Enjoy Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta as they play a lively combination of traditional Cuban rhythms mixed with American Jazz. Energizing the audience, Fuerza Caribe entertains with a spicy mix of Latin and Caribbean beats true to their Dominican Republic roots. Authentic music and charismatic performers will bring you to your dancing feet during any one of the Desert Botanical Garden’s Fall Concerts. 


Expect only savory flavors when sampling modern southwestern cuisine and authentic Mexican fare during a visit to Arizona. Slow roasted  favorites from south of the border can be found at well known establishments throughout the state. Culinary tours through just about any city statewide lead to delectable discoveries. Experience the restaurant that is at the heart of Tucson’s culinary history, El Charro Café. Operated continuously by the same family since 1922, El Charro Cafe offers a combination of Sonoran and Tucson style food. Famous for their award-winning Salsa Picante, made with fresh ground Chiletepin and their Carne Seca which is marinated on the rooftop and dried by the desert sun, try the El Charro synergy of tradition and innovation, Gourmet Magazine described as, "A Taste Explosion.” 

Chef Susan Davila creates fine Mexican cuisine inspired by family, color, and heart at the comfortably chic bistro, Café Poca Cosa of Tucson. Bursting with Sonoran flavor, freshness, and fun, the menu changes twice daily to reflect the best market selections available. Drawing from a wide range of ingredients indigenous to Guaymas, Sonora, plates at Café Poca Cosa offer unique and unexpected surprises sure to satisfy. Visit for a taste of delicious and imaginative cuisine and an experience to remember.  

Culinary creations worthy of the James Beard Award nomination for two years running have Barrio Café of Phoenix hailed as one of the hottest and most original restaurants to hit town. Savor their authentic southern Mexican cuisine served up with their famous guacamole and a margarita. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s innovated, this neighborhood eatery with her father’s long legacy as a Spanish baker in mind. Culinary experiences, travels, and an adventure of discovery through Mexico’s back roads and small villages led chef Silvana to learn that love is the key ingredient to making stellar Mexican cuisine. The original and fresh style of food at Barrio Café is the result of Silvana’s interpretation of traditional recipes, heritage, and family influences. 

Connecting the dots of mom and pop shops, travel The Salsa Trail through southern Arizona for a taste of down home friendliness and terrific Mexican favorites. Take the trail across the scenic Old West Highway to find a homegrown chile roasting company, a family owned tortilla factory and traditional Mexican restaurants in the beauty of the high desert. Any one of the authentic establishments joined together by the trail, bring Mexico north of the border. 

It’s the capsaicin found within in chiles that release endorphins and keep you coming back for more. Stop at San Simon Chili Company on the Salsa Trail, known for its homegrown chiles, offering fresh roasted, mild to extra hot New Mexico Long Green and Long Red Chiles, as well as jalepeno peppers. Did you know chiles are also used to relieve pain, increase oxygen flow, help to prevent blood clots, cancer cells, heal ulcers, and even kill bacteria? Pick some up to eat plain, or for cooking, learn more about spiciness, growing techniques, and tour the fields to find the mesh metal drum used for roasting.

Mi Casa's flour, corn, and whole wheat tortillas have taken the world by storm! Be sure to stop at this mom and pop tortilla factory and shop along the Salsa Trail in Safford, AZ. Restaurateurs, local residents, Arizonans, and travelers from across the globe can’t get enough of the fresh and preservative free tortillas, hot and ready to eat.   

Every September, the SalsaFest, reconnects the restaurants of the Salsa Trail and Graham County with a fiesta of fun. Taste test to rate the best homemade salsa, pop as many peppers as possible to win the Jalepeno Eating Contest, watch chasing Chihuahuas cross the finish line during a Chihuahua Race, enjoy live entertainment, and hot air balloons. 


Discover historical and contemporary art from Spain, Latin America and Mexico at the Tucson Museum of Art. Visitors seeking insight are welcomed to learn about the history and culture of the region. Explore Art of Latin America¬- an exhibit featuring the “Stela” of central Mexico along with the “Feline Head Fragment” from Peru, both of which are dated between 250 B.C. and 500 B.C. With nearly 2,000 works within the Spanish Colonial and folk art collections to admire, one of the best collections of oil-on-tin retablos, and dozens of Mexican provincial paintings, this exhibit offers a close look at the origins of Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the New World. Also revealed at the Tucson Museum of Art, the reflection of deep cultural heritage, rituals, and dance traditions are displayed in the exhibit featuring beautifully crafted Mexican masks.  

Learn the legacy of Arizona! Walk through underground mine tunnels and rooms decorated in territorial style at the Arizona Historical Society, Arizona’s Oldest Museum. Trace Arizona’s history from the Spanish Conquistadors to statehood. Check out Geronimo’s rifle and 18th century Spanish silver artifacts within the Arizona Treasures exhibition.

Now through 2012 visit Many Mexicos: Vistas de la Frontera at the Arizona State Museum in Tucson. More than 3,000 years of different Mexican histories are represented in this collection featuring a Mayan ritual corn vessel, Spanish colonial retablos, Santa Anna's sword and uniform, Maximilian's ring, Carlota's brooch, and a sombrero that may have belonged to Pancho Villa. The exhibit interprets the span of Mexican history through the borderlands. See how the history of Arizona was shaped by the history of Mexico.

Appreciate Arizona’s rich spectrum of heritages in the heart of downtown Phoenix, at The Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center. Enjoy live Latin music, at Galeria 147, featuring top local talent. Admire the art gallery stocked by local artisans, and enjoy a colorful shopping experience at the eclectic La Tiendita. Here in the heart of town good times await Phoenicians and visitors, the first Friday evening of each month. Linking The Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center (ALAC) with many other Phoenix galleries together is the monthly First Friday presented by Cox Communications. This is the nation’s largest art walk celebrating the arts. Get a little local flavor and see the many colors of works by the artists of Arizona.


Upon opening hand carved wooden doors experience 18th century authenticity at San Xavier Mission del Bac. Also called “The White Dove of the Desert,” San Xavier in Tucson, is widely considered the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. Constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar, the mural filled walls of the mission lead the eye to the beautiful masonry vaulted ceilings overhead. This roof and ceiling make San Xavier especially different from other Spanish Colonial structures. Founded in 1692, visit one of the oldest structures to ever exist in Arizona, and one of the original missions built by Father Kino. 

Home of the first Spanish settlement in Arizona, explore the city of Tubac and its rich Spanish culture. Founded in 1752, San Ignacio de Tubac is the oldest of the rare Spanish Presidios or settlements of the state. Relax at the Tubac Golf Resort and Spa or explore the 12 acre, Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, which  today preserves the ruins of the original presidio, a Territorial Schoolhouse dated to 1885, and the original hand press used to print the first newspaper of the state, The Weekly Arizonan! 

Hike from the trailhead at Tubac Presidio to Tumacoccori, blazing the same trail the expedition lead by Jaun Bautista de Anza III trekked, and arrive at the three Spanish colonial mission ruins protected by Tumacocori National Historic Park. Here the adobe structures of Tumacocori, Guevavi and Calabazas stand for exploration. Ride horseback in true conquistador form along the Anza Trail as it follows the Santa Cruz River or mountain bike beneath the shade of mesquite, and willow trees. 

For more information on this topic and others see the official Arizona travel and vacation guide from the Arizona Office of Tourism at or using your smartphone at

Find in-depth AZ visitor information and videos about visiting the state of Arizona, including comprehensive directories of Arizona hotels, dining and shopping, as well as things to do and places to visit throughout the Grand Canyon State.


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