Bailadores de Bronce. Photo: Hugo Ludeña
Photo: The Burke Museum

Cultural Heritage

Spanish and Mexican explorers made numerous expeditions to the Pacific Northwest beginning in 1774, calling the region Nueva Galicia after Spain’s rugged northwest coast. The first European settlement in the state was established among the Makah Tribe at Neah Bay, called Fort Nuñez Gaona.

The Pacific Northwest legacy of Spanish exploration, cartography and scientific discovery has long been overshadowed by British and American expeditions, but many place names that are still in use today commemorate Spanish exploration, including the San Juan Islands,  Port Angeles, Fidalgo Island, Camano Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

East of the Cascade Mountains, Mexican vaqueros, or cowboys, contributed to the development of cattle ranching in the 19th century, and Mexican farm workers have played an important role in agricultural production throughout the state up to the present day. Following World War II, many rural Latino families migrated to the Puget Sound region, seeking employment in Seattle’s booming post-war economy. The Civil Rights Era or El Movimiento brought widespread activism in the Latino community, including community arts projects.

Political turbulence in Central and South America in the 1970s and 80s brought immigrants to Seattle from Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua and other countries. According to the 2010 census, more than 10% of Washington’s population are persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, the largest minority group in the state.

The community of South Park is home to many Mexican and other Latino restaurants, markets and businesses, and the neighborhood’s annual Fiestas Patrias parade (September) brings the community together for music, dance, and other festival traditions.

El Centro de la Raza on Beacon Hill is a vibrant community center providing multi-ethnic social services, educational and cultural programs. Annual events include Cinco de Mayo and Dia de Muertos celebrations.

Latino arts organizations offer exhibits and performances at a variety of Seattle venues in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (mid-September to mid-October) and throughout the year.

We invite you to download the entire Latino Heritage Guide to Seattle for more information about history, special events, heritage sites, museums and arts.

Get the Guide to Seattle’s Latino Cultural Heritage

Discover More of Seattle's Rich Cultural Heritage

Peter Boome's Chasing Shadows Photo: Jack Storms

Native American Heritage

Jimi Hendrix Memorial Jimi Hendrix Memorial. Photo: David Newman

African American Heritage

Dragon Mural in Seattle's International District Photo: Tracey Hunter

Asian American Heritage

Rosemaling Rosemaling by Betty Edwards.

Nordic Heritage




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