For National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, along with the National Museum of American History, contributed to an exhibition at the White House celebrating the cultures and achievements of Latinx communities in the United States.
“During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanic heritage is American heritage,” President Joseph Biden stated in a proclamation at the beginning of the month, which is celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15. “We see it in every aspect of our national life: on our television and movie screens, in the music that moves our feet, and in the foods we enjoy.”
The temporary exhibit, on view in the Ground Floor Corridor of the East Wing, includes objects, photographs, and artwork from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. Our items are arranged into small, themed displays centering on Ceremonies and Festivals, Textiles, Artists and Artisans, Music, and Spirituality.
Ceremonies and Festivals features a Matachines dance skirt made with river reeds from Laredo, Texas, and a dance wand from Bernalillo, New Mexico—both used in a Catholic tradition of devotion to the Holy Cross celebrated across the American Southwest and featured at the 1987 Folklife Festival. Across the corridor in the Spirituality display stands is a large, sequin-embellished portrait of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico and the Americas, along with a portable altar to carry San Lorenzo through the streets of Bernalillo. The Music display includes a Puerto Rican hand drum, album art from Folkways’ Tradiciones / Traditions series, and a GRAMMY Award for Los Texmaniacs. A QR code directs visitors to a playlist of American Latino artists awarded National Heritage Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is also available on the Folkways website.
“It’s an honor to share the staggering creativity of artisans and musicians who have so enriched the Smithsonian Folklife Festival,” says Sabrina Lynn Motley, Festival director. “We hope that White House visitors and staff are inspired by these diverse expressions of culture, identity, and pride found in Latinx communities.”
On September 30, the exhibition was featured in a short news story from Telemundo’s hoyDía (in Spanish).
While public tours of the White House have been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19, residence staff and visiting dignitaries can enjoy a glimpse into the richness of American Latinx communities and the wide-ranging work of the Center.