September – November 1992

This exhibition focuses on the Latino experience as reflected in literature, music, and art. Latinos are one of the most rapidly growing ethnic groups in the United States, and in less than a decade may become the nation’s largest. The word “Latino” is a collective term that designates many different cultural, racial and ethnic groups of people. The term “Hispanic” has also been used to describe this population, but in recent years many Latinos have resisted that label because it acknowledges only a Spanish background; in fact, many Latinos can also trace back to a variety of cultures, predominately indigenous, African and European.

Among the diverse peoples who comprise the Latino population, Mexican-Americans (or Chicanos, as many prefer to call themselves), Puerto Ricans, and Cubans are the three largest subgroups residing in the United States. Within the past two decades, increasing numbers of Salvadorans, Dominicans, Colombians, Guatemalans and Nicaraguans, among others, have also made the United States their home.

Through the past century, members of the Latino community have been articulating their bilingual, bicultural experiences through a wide range of literary and artistic expressions. This exhibition presents a sampling of these, recognizing that they form a vital component of the literary and artistic history of the United States. Materials on exhibition include works by authors such as Elias Miguel Munoz (Crazy Love), Tomas Rivera (The Searchers), and Julia Alvarez (How the Garia Girls Lost Their Accents); plays by Candido Tirado (First Class), Dolores Prida (Beautiful Senoritas), and Luis Valdez (Zoot Suite); and poetry by Roberto Duran, Victor Hernandez Cruz, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. In addition to the literary genres, attention is given to music, with representative examples of folk and popular elements; and to art, in a variety of styles.

The Latino experience in the United States consists of extensive cross-national commonalities, intergroup distinctions, and intragroup diversity. As Latinos become an increasing proportion of the U.S. population, we will all benefit from an increased understanding of this complex population. By providing a sampling of perspectives on the Latino experience, the exhibition undertakes to enhance this understanding.

This exhibition was prepared by Susan Vega, Patricia Vaught, Janice Simmons-Welburn, and Grace Fitzgerald.