National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and Día de Los Muertos

September 13, 2023
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Graphic image promoting Fotos  Recuerdos Festival collaboration

Image courtesy Lil' Libros

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 with special programs, film screenings and an all-ages festival highlighting Hispanic history, culture and stories. The month of festivities will be followed by the museum’s annual el Día de los Muertos event Thursday, Nov. 2. Featuring a video and music installation by artists MasPaz and Guache, the event also will include crafts, performances and culinary treats. Admission for the festival is free.

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the Portrait Gallery will collaborate with its friends at the bilingual children’s book publisher Lil’ Libros, who will return to the museum for the second co-hosted Fotos & Recuerdos Festival. The afternoon event is for all ages and will take place in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard and surrounding galleries from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors are invited to join gallery tours, story times, book signings with Lil’ Libros authors, live performances and crafts workshops inspired by the Lil’ Libros book series “The Life of / La vida de,” which features Latinx sitters from the Portrait Gallery’s collection. The Washington Ballet will also be attending to lead a story time and salsa and bomba workshop. This program received federal support from the Latino Initiatives Pool, administered by the National Museum of the American Latino. NPR is the media partner.

On Sunday, Sept. 24, from 2–4 p.m., the Portrait Gallery will welcome adult audiences for a documentary film screening related to the museum’s “1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions.” War for Guam (2015) by Frances Negrón-Muntaner, will be shown in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium. The film explores World War II and its enduring legacy in Guam, a U.S. territory since 1898. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner; Lauren Swaddell, senior associate with expertise in Pacific conservation and Indigenous engagement at the Pew Charitable Trust; and Neil Weare, civil rights attorney and co-founder of Right to Democracy; and moderated by Taína Caragol, curator of painting, sculpture and Latino art and history at National Portrait Gallery

On Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. a second screening will feature two films: The Spanish American War, produced by Blackhawk Films, is a 22-minute compilation of brief newsreels of the War of 1898 between the United States and Spain. It offers a rare exploration of the parallel—yet coincidental—development of U.S. overseas expansion and early films. Foreign in a Domestic Sense (2021), directed by visual artists Natalia Lassalle Morillo and Sofía Gallisá Muriente, layers the narratives of Puerto Ricans who have migrated to Central Florida as a result of political and environmental stressors. Their stories bring to light more contemporary issues around displacement and community. A panel discussion with the artists; Judith Escalona, filmmaker, professor, and film curator; moderated by Caragol, will explore the film’s relevance to issues of both the past and present. Both screenings are supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

On the heels of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Portrait Gallery will host its annual el Día de los Muertos festival Nov. 2 from 5–8:30 p.m. Visitors can enjoy craft making and performances by a local folk-dance company. Visitors also are invited to pay tribute to passed loved ones at a community altar in the Kogod Courtyard from 5 to 8 p.m. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., artists Mas Paz and Guache will project their live video artwork, “La Común Unidad: Caminando con los Ancestros,” highlighting the artists’ ancestral cultural heritage. NPR is the media partner.

In addition to programmed events, visitors can explore portraits by Hispanic sitters and artists in the museum’s galleries, where wall text is available in both English and Spanish. At home, they can visit the Portrait Gallery’s Google Arts & Culture exhibitions, including “Afro-Latinx: Crossing Cultures, Identities and Experiences,” “One Life: Dolores Huerta” and “The Return to Aztlán,” among others.

Additional Programs:


Writing Workshop Inspired by Hispanic Heritage Month
Wednesday, Sept. 20; 5–7 p.m., G Street lobby

In this creative writing workshop, participants will gain inspiration from portraits of Cecilia Vicuñya and other contemporary Hispanic artists and activists in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. They will explore themes of culture, identity and social justice through guided writing prompts and discussion. Open to writers of all levels and genres, ages 18 and up. The program is free, but registration is required. 

Trivia Night: Con Mucho Mucho Amor
Tuesday, Sept. 26; 5–6 p.m., Kogod Courtyard

Visitors can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the National Portrait Gallery with its happy hour trivia night Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. in the Kogod Courtyard. With the museum’s friends from New Columbia Pub Quiz, visitors’ knowledge of Latinx art, history and culture in the United States will be tested, with questions inspired by the museum’s collection. They can participate individually or in teams of up to six people for a chance to win a prize at this fun, free event. Snacks and beverages will be available for purchase at the museum’s Courtyard Café. If in it to win it, visitors should be sure to save the dates for future trivia nights this fall Oct. 24 and Nov. 28. The program is free, but registration is encouraged. 

Kinship: An Artist Talk with Ruth Buentello
Saturday, Oct. 7; noon–1 p.m., “Kinship” Gallery (first-floor south galleries on the F Street side of the museum)

Visitors can join the museum for an artist talk with Ruth Buentello, a featured artist in the museum’s “Kinship” exhibition. Through her paintings, Buentello shares layered narratives of family memories and emotions, using art to process and appreciate her closest relationships. Her unique artistic process incorporates composite images and found Telas (fabrics), which adds a tangible connection to loved ones of generations past and present. This artist talk will take place in the artist’s Kinship gallery. It is free, but registration is encouraged. 

Interactive Family Workshop: Memory Collage with Artist Ruth Buentello
Saturday, Oct. 7; 2–4 p.m., Education Center, E151

Visitors can get creative in this free drop-in workshop for visitors of all ages led by Ruth Buentello, a featured artist in the museum’s “Kinship” exhibition. Inspired by Buentello’s colorful layered portraits, participants will learn how to create their own family memory collage using photos, paint and fabric. The workshop is free, but registration is encouraged.  

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the nation’s story.      

The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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Concetta Duncan


Gabrielle Obusek




Public Programs