With the arrival of Columbus in 1492, the Americas were vastly exposed to Spanish influences that went on to shape the continent’s cultural, religious, and racial identity. Throughout the centuries, this Hispanic identity has grown significantly, adding a unique flavor to the melting pot that is the modern United States we know today. This significant cultural footprint can be experienced today in the many locations across the country where Hispanic heritage and history is celebrated. Here are ten of the most important places you can visit to know more.

The Alamo

San Antonio, TX

The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Famous for being the site of the last-ditch 1836 battle to stave off the numerically superior Mexican forces and secure the freedom of an independent Texas, the Alamo was also one of the first Spanish missions in the region. It was converted into a fortress by the Mexican military and then captured by the Army of Texas in December of 1835, setting up a showdown that would prove to be the final stand of many brave Texans, and even American folk hero Davy Crockett. It still proudly stands as a symbol of fighting against all odds and is a popular tourist attraction in San Antonio.

Chicano Park

San Diego, CA

Located under the San Diego Coronado Bridge, Chicano Park’s colorful murals paint a powerful picture of the contributions of many Latin American heroes. You’ll see inspirational paintings of artists, activists, and revolutionaries like Frida Kahlo, Cesar Chavez, and Che Guevara throughout the 7.9 acres of the sprawling space.

Coronado National Memorial

Hereford, AZ

Coronado National Memorial desert hills

Attracted by stories of riches in the area, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition to America in 1540 to this mountain memorial located in Arizona. It was the first known European excursion to America, and can still be trekked. Once your plans are made and your cheap domestic flights are booked, don’t forget to pack up some comfy shoes along with anything else you may need for the hike. You’ll be walking a lot, especially if you decide to tour the ancient Coronado Cave.

Cesar Chavez National Monument

Keene, CA

Latin American civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, who played an important role in the formation of the United Farm Workers of America, lived and worked near this monument built to his memory. The site is also the first national park site to honor a contemporary Latino American. Nearby, you can also visit Villa La Paz — a conference center that Chavez used for meeting other activists.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

St. Augustine, FL

Canons at Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida

Built in 1672, this fort was originally constructed by the Spanish to protect St. Augustine from a British attack. An interesting fact about the fort is that it has never passed from one owner to the next through the use of force — it has only passed hands through military agreements or political treaties.

Related: Are You a Hispanic Heritage Expert? Take Our Quiz and See!

Chamizal National Memorial

El Paso, TX

A flood in the mid-1800s gave birth to a disagreement between the U.S .and Mexico — an issue that lasted almost 100 years. The flood had apparently shifted existing boundaries on either side of the Rio Grande, causing tensions between the two neighbors. But thankfully, due to the Chamizal Treaty of 1963, peace and harmony were restored. Today, the Chamizal National Museum hosts cultural performances that promote unity and understanding between the two nations.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Mountainair, NM

Hispanic Heritage Month - Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument

Nestled in the vast New Mexican desert, the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument pays tribute to Hispanic heritage and its influences on the eclectic culture of the area. The 11th-century Abo Pueblo people were the first to live on the site. Then, it was founded in the early 17th century by Spanish colonists. Three Spanish mission sites are the focal point of the National Monument. The first, Abó, is comprised of a trail that leads visitors to the mission ruins. At Gran Quivira, visitors will explore a remote site that showcases Puebloan ruins, which have been excavated. The final site, Quarai, is famous for its church, which is the most intact building on all of the sites.

These buildings provide a unique insight into the world that the area’s original inhabitants lived in. A combination of Native Americans and Spanish Franciscans lived in the area, and as such, it was one of the first contact points for Spanish Colonials, the Pueblo Indians, and a prominent pillar in Hispanic history. Today, its ruins provide a fascinating glimpse into the bridging of two cultures.

The Cabildo

New Orleans, LA

The Cabildo in New Orleans, LA is perhaps the most important landmark in the area that is dedicated to Hispanic heritage. Louisiana, and specifically NOLA, were predominantly Spanish as the area was colonized by Spain. In 1769, Don Alejandro O’Reilly formally took on the role of leader in the area. He erected the Cabildo to replace the French colonial government. The Cabildo was used as a town hall for the Spanish government overseeing the Louisiana territory from 1795 – 1799. The original Cabildo was destroyed in a fire. The Cabildo, as it stands today, was built on the original brickwork of the previous two buildings. It was where the Spanish colonists decided how to rule their city, and where most of New Orleans’ most important historical decisions were made, including the Louisiana Purchase of 1903.

This point in Louisiana’s history is unique and has a huge impact on Hispanic culture, as its original colonists hailed from Spain. Today, the Cabildo acts as a museum where visitors can explore exhibits of clothing, artifacts, and other objects that played a role in early Louisianan history. The museum is located in the French Quarter, and its three levels are home to paintings, historic documents, cultural items, and more.

The Hispanic Society of America

Hispanic Heritage Month - The Hispanic Society of America Statue

New York, NY

Perhaps the most in-depth examination of Hispanic history can be found at the Hispanic Society of America, located in NYC. The Society was founded in 1904 as a museum where visitors could explore historical artifacts from Spain, Latin America, Portugal, and the Phillipines. The museum is considered to give the most researched glimpse into Hispanic cultures, as it covers nearly every aspect of life from these locations. Among the collection of artifacts, visitors to the museum will be able to view 900 paintings, 15,000 prints, 175,000 photographs dating back to 1850, 300,000+ books and periodicals, and 6,000 watercolor and graphite pieces.

Some of the most famous artists whose works are showcased here include El Greco, Goya, and Sorolla. Ceramic works, glass, textiles, ironwork, jewelry, and even furniture also make up the collection. There are more than 6,000 unique artifacts to learn about, each detailing specific points of Hispanic historical periods and culture. As it stands, the Hispanic Society of America has preserved and showcased the most Hispanic artifacts found in the United States.

Freedom Tower

Miami, FL

Hispanic Heritage Month - Freedom Tower in Miami

Often dubbed the ‘Ellis Island of the South’, Freedom Tower stands proudly in Miami, FL. From 1962 to 1974, Freedom Tower operated as the Cuban Assistance Center to help refugees who were fleeing from Fidel Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba. Since Miami is one of the cities closest to Cuba, it became a hotspot for Cuban refugees. These refugees eventually settled in the area, giving it a rich and vibrant culture steeped in Cuban and Latin American roots. During its operation, those who worked at the tower (called ‘El Refugio’ by refugees), helped Cubans settle into American life by providing medical care, food programs, and financial relief grants. The Cuban Assistance Center was closed in 1974, but its contributions to the United States’ Cuban community remain.

Today, the tower itself stands at an impressive 17 stories high and the craftmanship is unlike that of any modern structure. Original oak doors, wrought-iron balconies, and concrete cherubs decorate the building. Adorning the Miami skyline, it has become one of the most iconic Miami buildings. In 2005, it was donated by the Pedro Martin family to Miami Dade College, which is the largest Hispanic-oriented secondary educational institution in the U.S. Visitors to Freedom Tower can peruse a gallery and exhibition space.

Do you know about any other historical Hispanic sites? Share them with us in the comments!

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About The Author

Dhinesh Manuel

Socialite, philanthropist, costumed crime fighter by night...no wait...that's Batman...my bad ... Musician, writer, travel junkie, dog lover, and database of useless information. I love to learn about new cultures, experience new cuisines, meet new people, and have a few laughs along the way!