As a Mexican American who constantly straddles bicultural lines, I’ve celebrated both Fourth of July and Mexican Independence Day. I’ve eaten the traditional holiday dish of red, white and green chiles en nogada that resemble the Mexican flag and also watched the elaborate Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, one of America’s proudest holiday traditions.

With Hispanic Heritage Month kicking off Sept. 15 and Dieciséis celebrations honoring Mexican Independence Day on Sept. 16 about to commence, I’m thinking about all of our histories, cultures and contributions. It’s been a tough month for many U.S. based Latinos as a slew of recently-announced federal immigration policies will now affect our communities and families.

More than 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan expanded Hispanic Heritage Week to a month-long celebration highlighting the nation’s Hispanic community. Now more than ever, spotlighting the people, history and cultura that helps lift all of our communities is crucial.

In Austin, don’t miss the chance to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with festivities throughout the city.

Celebrate Dieciséis

Pick one or try to check out a bit of each celebration honoring Mexican Independence Day.

• Viva México (Sept. 14 from 5-9 p.m.): The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center along with Frida Friday ATX presents this free gathering featuring live music, dance performances, food trucks, teen-led art projects and family activities. Featured performers include Latin alternative band Son de Rey, Mariachis Las Alteñas and ballet folklórico students of the Oaxaca Arte en Movimiento dance group. Shuttle parking will be available from Sanchez Elementary and Martin Middle School. Visit austintexas.gov/esbmacc for more information.


Fiesta Austin at Fiesta Gardens (Sept. 14 from 10 a.m.-10 p.m.): Tejano star David Farias featuring Max Baca of Los Texmaniacs headlines this annual festival, which will also have a kids zone, live painting, washer pitching tournament, food vendors and more. Free before 2 p.m., then $5 after that for ages 13 and older. No pets or tents allowed. Visit fiestaaustin.org for details.

El Grito ATX 2019 at Texas State Capitol (Sept. 15, starts at 5 p.m.): Univision Austin presents the free family-friendly event with food vendors, cultural activities and live music. The evening’s highlight includes Austin’s new Consul General of Mexico Pablo Marentes re-enacting the now-famous cry for independence or grito originally given in 1810 by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. That grito rallied Mexicans to stand up for the country’s freedom from colonial rule. Norteño band La Reunion Norteña headlines the festival.

» RELATED: Mexic-Arte Museum to create special Day of the Dead altar for El Paso victims

A spotlight on Central American music, film

Hispanic Heritage Month also coincides with the Sept. 15 independence days of several Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Central American cultural arts can often be harder to find in Austin, which has a higher Mexican and Mexican American population, but for more than a decade, Salvadoran singer-songwriter Mauricio Callejas has ensured that the spirit of his native Central America shines through at the annual Centroamericanto Fest, a celebration of the region’s music, food, dances and films.

A free movie night kicks off the festival at 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Black Box theater of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. The evening features the short Honduran film "Día de Suerte," or "Lucky Day," which tells the story of a young girl who dreams of becoming a fashion designer but struggles to make her family — in a small town in the northern coast of Honduras — understand. Just as she pursues her passion, something interrupts her promising career. The full-length documentary "Cachada," or "The Opportunity," follows the short film and follows five poor Salvadoran women who are single mothers and street vendors yet have a dream of becoming theater actresses.

On Sept. 7, legendary Nicaraguan singer-songwriter Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy headlines the music portion of the festival at the Zach Theatre's Kleberg stage along with Latin Grammy award winner Tato Henríquez from El Salvador. The concert, which costs $25 general admission and $35 for VIP tickets, also features traditional dances from Panama and Nicaragua as well as performances from several local artists including Callejas. 

Arrive at 5:30 p.m. to enjoy authentic Central American food at the Kleberg stage’s courtyard before doors to the concert open at 6:30 p.m. Admission to the marketplace is free and open to the public, even those without concert tickets. Visit cacfest.com for tickets and more information.