Statement by National Endowment for the Arts Chair Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD on National Hispanic Heritage Month
Every year, the United States celebrates September 15 – October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month—a month that highlights the rich heritage, contributions, and achievements of Hispanic/Latinx communities. An original thread in our nation’s fabric, people with Hispanic/Latinx heritage continue to have a monumental impact on the arts, culture, and economy. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is committed to advancing engagement with, inclusion of, and equitable access to arts, culture, and design created by and in Hispanic/Latinx communities.
This year, I had the great privilege of being the first African American and Mexican American woman to be appointed as chair of the NEA. My parents were not artists or wealthy arts patrons, but they believed that my brother and I should have artful lives, vidas artísticas. My parents, a Mexican immigrant mother and an African American father, drew upon art, and especially the work of artists from the Black and Mexican communities, as resources for my brother and me to understand and appreciate our origins. Summers in Mexico City with my mother’s family were a special time to learn traditions and experience Mexican art and culture from familial celebrations with traditions of food, music and dance to performances and exhibitions in both grand and humble presentation venues. Back at home in the U.S., when there were opportunities to experience the work of Latino artists, my parents made participation a priority; helping us to know and feel the history and expressions of Latinx communities as part of the American tapestry, recognizing those contributions as important, essential to what it is to be American.
At the NEA, support for Hispanic/Latinx artists extends across many fellowships, initiatives, and programs. Our honorific programs, NEA Jazz Masters Fellowships and National Heritage Fellowships, have honored and commemorated artists who demonstrate excellence within their craft. Among these distinguished artists are NEA Jazz Masters Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Barretto, Cándido Camero, and Eddie Palmieri. National Heritage Fellows with Hispanic heritage include Jimmy Jausoro, Modesto Cepeda, Eva Ybarra, Josephine Lobato, Ofelia Esparza, Los Matachines de la Santa Cruz, Suni Paz, Hugo Morales, Nellie Vera, Los Lobos, and Eva Enciñias. This wide range of accomplished artists and leaders demonstrates the many contributions of Latinx communities.
The NEA supports many kinds of Hispanic/Latinx arts organizations through our grants as well. For example, Ballet Hispánico in New York received funding to develop a choreographic residency and mentorship program with a focus on serving intergenerational, early-career Latinx artists and videographers.
The NEA’s 2020 grant to the CALA Alliance in Arizona supported Crossfade LAB, series of discussions about art, identity, and social justice among Hispanic/Latinx artists.
In 2022, GALA Hispanic Theatre in Washington, DC received NEA funding to produce an adaptation of the 19th-century operetta La Revoltosa/The Troublemaker that speaks to present-day concerns, including the influence of social media on relationships.
These grant examples are a small snapshot of the ways in which the NEA provides visibility and funding opportunities for Hispanic/Latinx artists and communities, from Lufkin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska; St. Louis, Missouri, to Alpharetta, Georgia; Placitas, New Mexico, to Des Moines, Iowa.
Hispanic heritage is American heritage. The NEA is honored and proud to take part in this celebration and bolster the importance of inclusivity and unity as essential elements needed to strengthen our nation.
To continue this celebration, please join us at arts.gov and our social media channels as the NEA highlights National Hispanic Heritage Month and shares more stories about Hispanic/Latinx artists and arts organizations on our blog and weekly podcast.