Latin America in Chicago

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Latin America in Chicago

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States and it is widely regarded as an international epicenter for finance, tourism, and culture. This multicultural metropolis is also known for the diversity and distinctive history of its 77 neighborhoods. Since the early twentieth century, Latin America has had a notable and active presence in Chicago. Out of almost 3 million residents in Chicago, 28% identify as Hispanic, many of whom are of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. Landmark neighborhoods such as Pilsen (along 18th street) and La Villita (along 26th street) have been centers of Mexican-American art, cuisine, and culture. Likewise, the Puerto Rican Paseo Boricua in Humboldt Park is known for holding the only self-standing institution in the nation devoted to showcasing Puerto Rican arts and historic exhibitions year-round.

Chicago’s festivals, which often take place during the beautiful Chicago summers, offer millions of people each year an opportunity to experience the wide variety of countries and cultures represented in our city—and the countries and regions of Latin America are no exception. Festival goers can listen and dance to Latin American music, sample regional cuisines, watch Latin American and Latino films, and much more. Included among the myriad festivals are the Taste of Latin America, with a focus on cuisine and cooking demonstrations, in addition to live music, arts, and crafts; Chicago Latino Film Festival, which focuses on films created by the Latinos from the United States and abroad; Fiesta del Sol, which reflects Pilsen’s desire for social transformation in community organizing; El Grito Chicago, which acknowledges the beginning of Mexico's War of Independence against Spanish rule; and Chicago Cinco de Mayo Festival and Parade, which remembers the victory of Mexican forces  over the invading French army in the Battle of Puebla, as well as smaller festivals that celebrate the food and cultures of Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, among others. 

Chicago is also home to a number of top universities, cultural institutions, historical sites, world-renowned museums, and over 200 theaters and art galleries, making it an unparalleled location for undertaking graduate studies and scholarly research about Latin America and the Caribbean.

Please click here to learn more about Chicago's Latin America-related institutions and resources.

Current and Upcoming Events, Activities & Exhibitions

Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil
October 8, 2017–January 7, 2018 | Art Institute of Chicago | 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, 60603

  Tarsila do Amaral. Abaporu, 1928. Colección MALBA, Museo de Arte Latinoamerican de Buenos Aires. © Tarsila do Amaral Licenciamentos.

Tarsila do Amaral (1886–1937) was a central figure in the development of Brazil’s modern art, and her influence reverberates throughout 20th- and 21st-century art. Although relatively little-known outside Latin America, her paintings and drawings reflect her ambitions to synthesize the currents of avant-garde art and create an original modern art for her home country. Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil, the first exhibition in North America devoted to the artist, focuses on her work in the 1920s, when she traveled between São Paulo and Paris, participating in the creative and social lives of both cities and forging her own unique artistic style.

The exhibition begins in Paris with what Tarsila, as she is affectionately known in her home country, called her “military service in Cubism.” Her rich involvement with European modernism included associations with artists Fernand Léger and Constantin Brancusi, dealer Ambroise Vollard, and poet Blaise Cendrars. The presentation follows her trips to Rio de Janeiro and the colonial towns of Minas Gerais and charts her expanding and vital role in Brazil’s emerging modern art scene and with its community of artists and writers, including poets Oswald de Andrade and Mário de Andrade. It was during this period that Tarsila began combining the visual language of modernism with the subjects and palette of her homeland to produce a fresh and uniquely Brazilian modern art. The exhibition celebrates Tarsila’s most daring works and her role in the founding of Antropofagía—an art movement that promoted the idea of devouring, digesting, and transforming European and other artistic influences in order to make something entirely new. Tarsila’s contributions include the landmark 1928 canvas Abaporu, which was the inspiration for the Anthropophagous Manifesto and came to serve as an emblem for the movement.

Featuring over 120 paintings, drawings, and historical documents related to the artist, Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil is a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s work, which is held mostly in Brazilian collections. For more information please visit the Art Insitute of Chicago.

The Ancient Americas Exhibit
Ongoing Exhibition |  Field Musem | 11400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago IL 60605

“Lord Shield Jaguar and Lady Xok,” Lintel 24 Stone carving (replica) Maya (circa AD 725) Chiapas State, Mexico

“Lord Shield Jaguar and Lady Xok,” Lintel 24 Stone carving (replica) Maya (circa AD 725) Chiapas State, Mexico.

Step into the windswept world of Ice Age mammoth hunters. Walk through a replica of an 800-year-old pueblo dwelling and imagine your entire family cooking, eating, and sleeping in one small room. Explore the Aztec empire and its island capital, Tenochtitlan, a city of more than 200,000 people and an extraordinary feat of engineering for any era.

The Field Museum's ground-breaking new exhibition, The Ancient Americas, takes you on a journey through 13,000 years of human ingenuity and achievement in the western hemisphere, where hundreds of diverse societies thrived long before the arrival of Europeans. You'll discover what Field Museum scientists and others have learned about the people who lived in the Americas before us, and how it's changing nearly everything we thought we knew!

In this 19,000-square-foot permanent exhibition you'll experience the epic story of the peopling of these continents, from the Arctic to the tip of South America. To tell that story, the galleries of The Ancient Americas are organized in a uniquely revealing way: not in chronological order around isolated cultures, as in traditional museum exhibitions, but around the diverse approaches people have developed to meet the challenges they face. For more information, please visit the Field Museum

Doctrine and Devotion: Art of the Religious Orders in the Spanish Andes
Through January 3, 2018 | Art Institute of Chicago | 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, 60603

Unknown artist, active in South America. The Virgin of the Rosary with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena, 17th century. Carl and Marilynn Thoma Collection.

Presenting 13 paintings by South American artists from the 17th through 19th century, this focused exhibition introduces visitors to images promoted by several Catholic orders at work in the Spanish Andes—Dominicans, Franciscans, Mercedarians, and Jesuits—examining the politics of the distinct iconographies each group developed as they vied for devotees and dominion.

Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru with a mandate from Charles V to impose Spanish law and order, as well as the Roman Catholic religion, upon the indigenous Inca society that he encountered. The enormous task of converting the indigenous peoples of Spain’s overseas territories to Christianity fell largely to missionaries from several religious orders rather than parish clergy. For a native population that had no written language tradition, the missionaries relied heavily on works of art to illustrate their sermons and lessons and help them gain converts.

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church embraced the use of images both as pedagogical tools and instruments of devotion, and the religious orders in South America relied on them in similar ways—as didactic materials employed in the teaching of new converts, and in later years as a means of spreading devotions specific to their own interests. While their ultimate goals were the same, each religious order promoted images specific to their own histories, identities, and goals. This exhibition explores examples of the iconographies that were particular to each group.  For more information please visit the Art Insitute of Chicago.