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Travels in the Heartland: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month through food and art

Street tacos at GG Barbacoa Cafe in Kansas City, Kansas.jpg
Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 19:45:58-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, the Omaha area will see lots of dance performances, speakers and dinners Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. But, the best way to experience Hispanic Heritage Month is to explore the community through its art and food. South Omaha’s Historic 24th Street District is the perfect area to visit. You can also expand your horizon with visits to regional cities, such as Kansas City, Kansas and Grand Island.


Celebrating Latin history at Omaha's Cinco de Mayo parade.JPG
Celebrating Latin history at Omaha's Cinco de Mayo parade

South Omaha has long been home to the city’s immigrants, beginning with eastern Europeans coming to work in meatpacking houses and breweries. Today, many of the meatpacking jobs are filled by immigrants from Latin America, sharing the goal with earlier immigrants of creating a better life for their families. Take a self-guided tour of 24th Street, between L and Q Streets, and explore the South Omaha Mural Project celebrating Hispanic life. With murals primarily located around Plaza de La Raza at M Street, you’ll find colorful displays of stories featuring Pancho Villa and Del Futuro al Pasado (a look at the community, who people are, and what they believe in).

South Omaha's Tree of Life consists of seven images that represent the cultural background of the area—Polish, Czech, Croatian, and Hispanic.

Check out stores on the street, and you’ll find stores full of beautiful dresses and colorful suits for quinceanera celebrations when a 15-year-old girl transitions from childhood to adulthood. Other stores offer pinatas, national flags, and clothes. Pottery stores feature handmade pots, bowls, and other items. Stop in at any of the restaurants—such as Taqueria el Rey—for authentic Latin dishes. From tacos, empanadas and burritos to frijoles and chile rellenos, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy. North of L St, Jacobo’s—with the aroma of fresh tortillas wafting throughout the store—is a popular grocery store featuring Hispanic products. With a deli serving freshly-made tamales, enchiladas, and nacho chips, you’ll want to grab some extra salsa. For a look into Hispanic history, including its influence in Omaha, a visit to El Museo Latino is a must. Located in the former Polish Home building at 4701 S. 25th Street, the museum—featuring art and historical exhibits—is the first Latino museum of its kind in the Midwest. Opened in 1993, the museum also hosts community events and special exhibits.

SEE MORE: Enjoy an urban hike in Omaha

Kansas City, Kansas

About a three-hour drive south, Kansas City, Kansas, also known as KCK, is home to an impressive Hispanic community. With more than 50 Mexican restaurants and Latino markets, the city’s Taco Trail is a fun—and filling—adventure. Street tacos, birria tacos, and Tex-Mex menus highlight a visit to the state’s third-largest city. GG’s Barbacoa Café, which relocated from its streetside trailer to a vintage downtown building, features some of the best Mexican food you’ll ever enjoy.

Making fresh tortillas at Carniceria y Tortelleria San Antonio.jpg
Making fresh tortillas at Carniceria y Tortelleria San Antonio

Carniceria y Tortelleria San Antonio is a true Mexican market, deli, and restaurant. Offering street tacos, enchiladas and birria, the restaurant is an excellent spot to enjoy lunch. The deli features authentic Hispanic food, such as chicharron (fried pork belly). The San Antonio market also sells peppers, chiles, pinatas, as well as other items.

El Baile de la vida mural in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.JPG
El Baile de la Vida mural in downtown Kansas City, Kansas

As you explore Kansas City’s Hispanic neighborhoods, soak in the classic architecture, shops and outlets. With a beautiful public art scene, KCK uses art to help tell the area’s history, including Anthology of Argentine mural. The block-long mural depicts Kansas City history, from Native Americans to community events and activities, such as wrestling, as well as the city’s railroad. A tribute to Folklorico, the mural El Baile de la Vida (The Dance of Life) features dancers and folk outfits from 19 Mexican states. It’s one of the Avenue of Murals celebrating KCK’s ethnic and civic history.

Anthology of Argentine mural in Kansas City, Kansas.jpg
Anthology of Argentine mural in Kansas City, Kansas

RELATED: Tasting the Kansas City, Kansas Taco Trail

Grand Island

While not the largest Hispanic population among Nebraska cities outside Omaha and Lincoln, about 32 percent of Grand Island’s population is Hispanic. The city has done an impressive job of meshing the Latin culture with its Euro-American background. You’ll find plenty of Hispanic eateries in town, from Mexican to Cuban. La Milagrosa offers a Cuban menu, with a pork dish served with a side of black rice. For an authentic Cuban experience, order a cup of coffee. You’ll feel like you’re in Havana.

Pork dish at La Milagrosa.jpg
Pork dish at La Milagrosa

With almost 100 Hispanic-owned businesses, Grand Island offers a variety of shopping options, from pottery to clothes and art.

La Milagrosa Market in Grand Island.jpg
La Milagrosa Market in Grand Island

Whether you are a fan of art, food, or history, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the past, while looking at today’s communities, with a nod to the future.

SEE MORE: Travels in the Heartland

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