Hispanic Heritage Month Exhibit 2023

Hispanic Heritage Month Exhibit

Exhibition on View
2023 Hispanic Heritage Month
Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
On View Through October 13, 2023
Governor's Reception Room, 2nd Floor
New York State Capitol

Celebrating one’s own culture and heritage alongside a quest for identity amidst a broader group is a characteristic found in each community across the state and, when woven together, creates the rich, vibrant, and exceptional tapestry of "One New York."

Hispanic Heritage Month is historically observed as beginning on September 15, a significant day celebrating the independence of the Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Fittingly, the month is inclusive of a much broader Hispanic and Latino diaspora. Today, nearly one in five New Yorkers identifies as Latino or Hispanic. Historically, immigration to New York State from Hispanic and Latino origins can be traced back to the early 17th century.

This exhibition focuses on individuals with distinct accomplishments in the arts, entertainment, journalism, and academia. Each of these trailblazers have unique backgrounds and histories that have informed distinct accomplishments. They capture a slice of the diversity and achievements of the state's many Hispanic and Latino communities, and contribute to lasting and unique narratives, at once personal and public. Their originality has helped shape and redefine the cultural mosaic of New York.

Juan Rodriguez

According to contemporary research by the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute, the first non-Native settler of what is now known as the New York City borough of Manhattan, was Juan Rodriguez, a sailor who arrived on a Dutch ship in 1613. Born to a Portuguese father and an African mother, Rodriguez hailed from the Spanish colony of La Española (today the Dominican Republic and the Republic of Haiti).

Rodriguez is an example of how Hispanic Heritage Month encompasses a wide variety of regions and cultures that is not defined to one single identifier.

Illustration by Delano Franklin/Organic Magnetics
Portrait of Juan Rodriguez

Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo is an award-winning author and poet.

Inspiration for Acevedo’s novels comes from her personal background as an Afro-Dominican woman growing up in Harlem, New York to immigrant parents and their trips to the Dominican Republic during the summer. Her written poetry and slam poetry incorporate elements of performance influenced by the bolero music played by her family and stories of Dominican folklore. Her book, "The Poet X," became a "New York Times" bestseller and won several awards including the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. In 2022, Acevedo was selected as the Young People's Poet Laureate by The Poetry Foundation.
Portrait of Elizabeth Acevedo

Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez was born in New York City, but briefly moved back to her parents’ native Dominican Republic before fleeing 10 years later and resettling in Queens, New York. Alvarez began writing in order to cope with the discrimination she faced as a child adjusting to life in the United States and learning to speak English. Themes of the immigrant experience and cultural identity are primary subjects in her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Some titles include "How the García Girls Lost Their Accents," "The Other Side/ El Otro Lado," and "Once Upon A Quinceañera." In 2013, Alvarez was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
Portrait of Julia Alvarez

Gonzalo Casals

Gonzalo Casals is the current senior research and policy fellow for Arts and Culture at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. His extensive career in the arts includes holding executive roles at the El Museo del Barrio, Friends of the High Line, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art. Prior to his current role, Casals was appointed Commissioner for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. An Argentine immigrant who identifies as queer, Casals is a proud advocate for Latinx and queer communities and believes in creating space for those who feel less represented in society.
Portrait of Gonzalo Casals

Evelyn D’Agostino

“I have seen how the beauty of art and dance bring families and communities together.”

Born in Panama, Evelyn D’Agostino, pictured here on the right, moved to Western New York in 2006, where she and other families with similar backgrounds discussed the importance of sharing their cultural heritage with their children and other communities within the area. Soon after, she founded Grupo Cultural Latinos En Rochester, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to promote Latin America folklore in Western, NY through educational events, community workshops, and meaningful live performances.”
Portrait of Evelyn D’Agostino

Polly Ferman

Polly Ferman is an acclaimed pianist, music director, educator and cultural entrepreneur who "The Japan Times" calls “The Musical Ambassador of the Americas.” Ferman was born in Uruguay and trained in classical piano but after moving to New York City in 1982 she narrowed her focus to performing from Latin American works such as compositions by Alberto Evaristo Ginastera and Heitor Villa-Lobos. In 1984, she founded and became the artistic director of the Pan American Musical Art Research Inc. In 2006 she helped create Latin American Cultural Week in New York City. Both organizations are currently active and are devoted to showcasing Latino and Hispanic culture.
Portrait of Polly Ferman

Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno is one of the most prolific actresses in Hollywood and broke new ground for Hispanic and Latino representation in entertainment. She is known for her breakout role of Anita in the 1961 film "West Side Story" -- the role that earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but more importantly, a role Moreno continues to be proud of because she believes Anita’s character represents her community with dignity and positivity. She became the first Latina to achieve an “E.G.O.T” (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award) and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Born Rosa Dolores Alverío in Puerto Rico, Moreno moved to New York City in 1936.
Portrait of Rita Moreno

Tito Puente

Referred to by many as “The King,” Tito Puente was one of the most prolific Latino musicians, whose music blended Latin sounds with jazz and was considered to be one of the last bandleaders of the age that produced leaders such as Duke Ellington. In 1979, he won a Grammy for "Homenaje a Benny" and, 10 years later, received the lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

After 118 recordings and five Grammy awards, Puente continued his musical career until his last days. He is buried near his home in upstate New York.
Portrait of Tito Puente

Sophie Rivera

Sophie Rivera was an educator, activist and photographer who gained acclaim for her four-by-four-foot portraits of Puerto Rican New Yorkers. Rivera was cautious of the stereotypically offensive visual representations of Puerto Ricans in popular media and wanted to document the community in a graceful and dignified manner. According to "The New York Times":

“They were time-stamped by their hair styles and clothing as citizens of the 1970s and ’80s, but they were made eternal by their direct gazes, formal poses and the nimbus of light with which Ms. Rivera surrounded them.”
Portrait of Sophie Rivera

Kenny Rivero

Born and raised in New York, Kenny Rivero received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from School of Visual Arts and his Master of Fine Arts from Yale School of Art. His identity, and the nature of what it means to have a home and belonging, are key aspects of his work.

“Through the lens of my evolving relationship to fear, love, death, intimacy, violence, power, and aloneness, my work addresses themes of Dominican and American identity, Afro-Caribbean symbologies, socio-geographic solidarity, cultural and familial expectations, race, and masculinity.” -Artist Statement from the Joan Mitchell Foundation
Portrait of Kenny Rivero

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was a historian, writer, activist, and curator. He was born in Puerto Rico to a father of German and Puerto Rican descent and a mother of Afro-Caribbean descent but immigrated to New York at the age of 17. It was his life mission to collect and document the African and African diasporic contributions to history. The New York Public Library acquired his collection in 1926 and Schomburg worked as the collection’s curator. His legacy continues on because his collection was the foundation for what has become known today as the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Portrait of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg

Rafael Serra

Rafael Serra, or José Rafael Simón Agapito Serra y Montalvo, was an Afro-Cuban intellectual who had an influential role contributing to the Cuban Independence movement in the United States. Born in Cuba, he made his way to New York City in 1888 and began working as a political journalist editing Spanish-language newspapers. Afro-Cubans living in New York faced severe discrimination and segregation and were relegated to working labor-intensive and poorly paid jobs. Serra founded "La Liga de Instrucción," an educational institution for Black Cuban and Puerto Rican men to learn how to defend themselves in the face of discrimination through studying social and labor equality.
Rafael Serra

Juan Texidor

Born in Puerto Rico and settling in Western New York in 1951, Juan Texidor was a well-known community leader and radio personality in Buffalo, New York. For almost 40 years, Texidor hosted “Ecos Borincanos,” a weekly radio program and the first Spanish language broadcast in Western New York. The show featured other personalities such as Rafael Acosta, Maria Martinex, and Luis Marchany -- and resonated with other Hispanics throughout the region, introducing listeners to the beauty and power of Latin music. Texidor was an active community member for Buffalo’s Hispanic community and a co-founder of the Agustin “Pucho” Olivencia Community Center and the Hispanics United of Buffalo.

Image courtesy of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library’s Hispanic Heritage “Bring Us Your History!” Project
Portrait of Juan Texidor