When people travel to New York they generally check out landmarks and famous buildings, tourist spots (and even some tourist traps) to create their “the New York experience”. But for me, in order to really immerse myself in the city, you have to embed yourself in the communities. At the end of the day, the people really are what make New York City so special.
And that’s even truer for our community: more than a quarter of New York City’s population is Latin. Our culture is integrated into the fabric of the city, in its veins, and you can see it in countless historical sites, art institutions, restaurants, small businesses, parades, and festivals.
Latinos in New York City come from all over Latin America: Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Colombia, Belize – the list goes on and on.
Take the Bronx as an example: it has the largest population of concentrated Dominicans, and more than 50 percent of the population is Latin. If you are in the Bronx and go to a bodega, you will hear the music, the salsa, bachata, hip-hop and appreciate all the sazón brought by Latin communities to a US city.
So, this is your essential guide to have a taste of the Latin New York experience and to really know the city that never sleeps from our community’s perspective!
Where to explore the Colombian culture in New York City
Colombia has a happy and vibrant culture, marked by cheerful music, a range of artistic styles, colorful fashion, and a strong focus on coffee and cooking. Colombians brought all of this to New York when they immigrated and settled in the city.
Many Colombians live in Northwestern Queens, a section sometimes referred to as “Little Colombia.” A stroll in and around Colombia Way (82nd Street, near 37th Avenue) is a good starting point for immersing yourself in this South American country’s culture.
Where to drink the best coffee and have a delicious Colombian dinner
Whether you’re looking to get a quick cup of coffee, or to enjoy a relaxing moment with friends, the city offers plenty of options. On the east side you can visit the Juan Valdez shop (140 E. 57 St.). On the west side, try Romeo & Juliet for an exquisite coffee. You can also go to Greenpoint, in Brooklyn, where Pueblo Querido is located. You can buy bags of fresh and delicious Colombian coffee beans while you enjoy some arepas.
At dinnertime, head to Roosevelt Boulevard in Jackson Heights for a traditional menu at La Abundancia, a 24-hour pastry shop and restaurant. In Manhattan, you can visit Dulce Vida Latin Bistro, which features a comprehensive tasting experience.
Where to enjoy Colombian music
New York City gives you many opportunities to find the rhythms of Colombia. Two parks have been known to (seasonally) offer free dance classes. Tuesday nights in Washington Square Park offers the opportunity for anyone who is interested to dance salsa. You can also show off your skills on Sunday afternoons by the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, where a DJ plays music and there is dancing.
If after dancing you feel like you need even more fun, you can visit the Colombian nightlife. Head to Terraza 7 in Jackson Heights to drink Colombian brandy and enjoy Latin music shows. If you are more of a “adventure” kind of person, seek out one of the yellow, blue and red La Chiva Loca party buses for a festive tour of the city while listening and dancing to Colombian music.
Enjoy the Cuban culture in New York City
Since we are talking about dancing, it seems like the perfect time to introduce a few Cuban places that will help you understand this tropical culture that originated rhythms like salsa.
While Miami is known for its deep bond to Cubans, New York City has close to 150,000 Cuban-Americans. Many Cubans immigrated to the city and brought with them their cuisine, music, art, and dance.
Where to eat Ropa Vieja, one of the national Cuban dishes
There is one place in particular in New York City to get this dish: Coppelia. This Cuban restaurant located in Chelsea was founded by Beatriz de Armas. With its 24/7 bright neon lights, Coppelia offers New Yorkers delicious Cuban food. In this restaurant you will also get other classics such as Cuban sandwiches and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken).
You can also visit Rincon Criollo, the family Cuban restaurant open since 1976, in Jackson Heights. It offers Cuban classics like ropa vieja and picadillo. The original Rincon Criollo (named after a Cuban movie) dates back to the early 1950s in Havana, before members of the Acosta family came to the United States and founded this branch.
Where to dance and listen to Cuban music
Amor Cubano, in East Harlem, is one of the most energetic places in the city to enjoy live Cuban music. The setting will transport you to Havana in the 1950s, with Cuban food, live music and a floor that later becomes the dance floor for salsa.
You can also visit Guantanamera, known for its vibrant live music shows on weekends. Here, you can enjoy sangria, different mojitos and Cuban cigars. The restaurant shares its name with a famous Cuban song, whose lyrics are from a poem by Cuban national hero José Julián Martí.
Find the best Peruvian places in New York City
New York City is an excellent showcase of Peru’s vibrant culinary traditions. In Jackson Heights, Queens, home to many of NYC’s Peruvian residents, authentic Peruvian restaurants offer ceviche, creamy stews and other dishes made the way they’re made in South America. Meanwhile, nearby neighborhoods host dance performances and festivals that bring Peru’s rhythms to life.
Recommended Peruvian restaurants to visit
At Ultrabamba, you can enjoy an authentic Peruvian meal. It is a family restaurant that opened its doors in 1975 and is the oldest Peruvian restaurant in New York City.
Another place to celebrate Peruvian culture is at Artesano, a new restaurant by chef Rodrigo Fernandini, opened less than a year ago in Tribeca. The main concept of this restaurant is: handcrafted. Peruvian tradition combined with modern cooking concepts.
If you are looking for Nikkei cuisine (a mix of Peruvian and Japanese preparations) you must visit Llama San. Peruvian chef Erik Ramírez and Peruvian-Japanese chef Sergio Nakayoshi fuse tastes that cross continents, and dishes feature hard-to-find luxury ingredients. For example, they offer a reversed Pisco sour, which incorporates matcha, sake or green tea.
Peruvian cultural events
Sisa Pakari is a non-profit organization that promotes Andean culture in New York City through dance and music. Visitors can learn about the history and culture of the Andes through the group’s cultural performances, music, and dance classes.
If you plan to visit New York City in June, don’t miss the Festival of the Sun (also known as Inti Raymi) that typically takes place in Queens at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park. The event is a religious tradition dedicated to thanksgiving to the Sun God. Hundreds of people attend every year, and the festival showcases Andean culture through food, traditional music, and dance.
If you want to know more about other Latin cultures in NYC, click here!
Latin American History and Culture Sites in NYC
The Latino community of New York City is very important for the growth of art and culture. Behind many important museums, theaters, dance academies and educational centers, there are many Latino founders and artists who gave (and give) their best to represent their communities.
These are three cultural attractions that you can’t miss if you want to learn more about the local Latino culture and its leaders.
- The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD). Since 1998, it’s been a pioneer in offering queer artists and color-skin artists a way to express themselves in a welcoming environment. This was an extraordinary social breakthrough by co-founders Charles Rice Gonzalez and Arthur Aviles at a time when the LGBTQ rights movement had far fewer advocates. Today, the Academy is home to the Arthur Aviles Dance Company, which hosts a number of annual festivals, including a film series and a women’s art program.
- The Nuyorican Poets Café. Nuyorican represents a fusion between New York City and Puerto Rico cultures, referring to a literary and artistic movement that emerged in the 60s and 70s, following increased Puerto Rican migration. Although the Puerto Rican community is a big part of NYC today’s culture, integrating into city’s life has not always been easy. Knowing this, the founders of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Miguel Algarín, Miguel Piñero, and Pedro Pietri, believed that art could reinforce social and political justice, a conviction that took the form of poems, plays, and other literary composition that were (and still are) displayed in this cafe.
- The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center was a space for non-profit organizations to meet during the 70s until the 2000s. The cultural center commemorates the spirit of Puerto Rican nationalist and poet Clemente Soto Velez, a strong supporter of Puerto Rican independence. Currently, the center is focused on bridging the broad spectrum of cultures and ethnicities on the Lower East Side. Many different communities have performed and exhibited in this space, and you can see upcoming performances and cultural activities here.