12 Great U.S. Museums Focused on Latin American Art

These must-visit locations highlight the rich, complex history of Latin America and Latinos in the United States.

A mural on exterior of Esperanza Arts Center in Philadelphia

Esperanza Arts Center has been uplifting the local Hispanic community for three decades.

Courtesy of the Esperanza Arts Center

Latino culture continuously expands in the United States through music, art, and food. It can be found in places like Buffalo, New York , or big cities with historically large Latino populations such as Chicago. Latin American art manifests in many ways throughout the country, reassuring viewers that Latinos are not a monolith. The following musuems include a variety of media, including paintings and sculptures. Discover an exhibition of the Cuban diaspora, performance art highlighting the plight of Latino immigrants and how their stories unfold in the United States, and much more.

National Museum of Puerto Rican Art and Culture

Located in the historic neighborhood of Humboldt Park in Chicago, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture (NMPRAC) focuses on Puerto Rican art with ongoing exhibitions featuring contemporary art, music, and works from Puerto Rican artists. It’s the only self-standing museum devoted to showcasing Puerto Rican arts and cultural exhibitions year-round in the mainland United States. Aside from the exhibits, NMPRAC hosts community events featuring local artists, musicians, and youth art workshops, such as the Barrio Arts Fest, which takes place every summer and includes live music, art from local artists for sale, and Puerto Rican food vendors.

Art Museum of the Americas

The Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C. opened in 1976 and is the oldest U.S. museum focusing on modern and contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art. The museum, part of the Organization of American States, aims to promote democracy and solidarity through its impactful art. Step from the vivid blue tiled walls of the interior gallery’s inner patio into a tranquil sculpture garden, which serves as an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city. Visit its exceptional permanent collection, featuring a variety of media of over 2,000 pieces from established and emerging artists from Latin America, such as Bolivian Maria Luisa Pacheco and Colombian Alejandro Obregon. Check out its Instagram page for the latest events schedule.

El Museo del Barrio

Founded in 1969 by Raphael Montañez Ortiz and a collective of Puerto Rican artists, educators, and activists, El Museo del Barrio stands as a beacon for the presentation and preservation of Puerto Rican and broader Latin American art and culture in the United States. Located in New York City’s El Barrio (Spanish Harlem), the museum boasts a vast collection of over 8,500 pieces, spanning from pre-Columbian Taíno artifacts to contemporary artworks. This year, it updated its permanent collection with the exhibition Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección, showcasing its diverse permanent collection through 500 artworks, including new acquisitions and commissions. The year-long, innovative display transcends conventional classifications, offering an interdisciplinary exploration of Amerindian, African, and European contributions to visual arts in the Americas and the Caribbean while highlighting the museum’s rich history and legacy. The museum hosts free guided tours with El Museo’s educators on most weekends.

Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)

Witness the depth of Latin American and Latino artistry at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) in Long Beach, California. Established in 1996, MOLAA is the only U.S. museum dedicated to Latin American contemporary art. Located in the historic East Village Arts District, in a space that once housed a pioneering silent film studio, MOLAA showcases an expansive collection of over 1,300 artworks and a mesmerizing 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden. Part of the permanent collection includes works by the Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, a pioneer in geometric abstraction. Current exhibitions include a multimedia exhibit, Alexandre Arrechea: Intersected Horizons, his premier solo museum exhibition in California, showcasing the celebrated Afro-Cuban artist’s multidisciplinary works.

El Museo

Buffalo’s El Museo, established in the 1970s by Craig Centrie and Juan Gonzalez, is western New York’s sole nonprofit visual arts organization championing underserved artists. Originating amid the civil rights movement’s fervor for diversity, the Latino Artists Collective, a group of artists that began at the University at Buffalo, initiated a journey of art promotion, from street corner drama performances to the innovative Gallery Without Walls (pop-up exhibitions throughout Buffalo). In 1981 they established El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, paying homage to iconic Puerto Rican and Mexican artists. Over time, the museum expanded its mission, representing the BIPOC community. Situated on Allen Street since 1997, El Museo remains a beacon of cultural diversity, fostering inclusion and artistic dialogue in the vibrant Buffalo arts scene by hosting exhibitions and conversations with artists.

A photo exhibit at the Molina Family Latino Gallery

The Molina Family Latino Gallery is one of many museums that includes information in both English and Spanish.

Courtesy of Tony Powell / Molina Family Latino Gallery / National Museum of American History

National Museum of the American Latino, Washington, D.C.

The Molina Family Latino Gallery is a precursor to the eagerly awaited National Museum of the American Latino. Situated within the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian network of museums, this 4,500-square-foot gallery offers a vibrant window into Latino history and culture. Designed with inclusivity at its core, the gallery is accessible to visitors with diverse physical, sensory, and cognitive conditions, offering content in both English and Spanish. Its inaugural exhibition, ¡Presente!, shines a light on U.S. Latinos’ profound contributions in business, politics, and arts and tells an interactive story on immigration and the Latino story in the United States. You can also take a virtual tour online.

The Clemente Museum

The Clemente Museum, situated in a historic 19th-century firehouse in Pittsburgh, is a tribute to Puerto Rican baseball legend and humanitarian Roberto Clemente. Beyond showcasing the most extensive collection of Clemente’s memorabilia, the venue surprises many with its urban wine cellar. The museum and the wine venture are the brainchild of executive director and winemaker Duane Rieder, who founded the Clemente Society in 2009. Members further Clemente’s legacy by contributing 21 percent of their wine buys to support the museum’s mission. Note that the museum offers guided tours exclusively, with schedules on its website.

The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora

The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami stands as a testament to the Cuban diaspora’s rich history, culture, and substantial contributions to arts and humanities. Diving deep into tales often overlooked, the museum resonates with narratives of those who left their homeland in search of hope, using art to voice their pain and aspirations. The museum currently hosts an exhibition titled Arquitectura by Cuban Americans in Exile, featuring notable works from architects such as Robert Behar and Willy A. Bermello.

National Museum of Mexican Art

In 1982, Carlos Tortolero and fellow educators established the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, which opened in 1987 to promote accessibility, education, and social justice. What started as a small space expanded to a modern 48,000-square-foot facility in Pilsen, Chicago. By 2006, it took on a new identity, the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), which celebrates Mexican culture and hosts over 18,000 art pieces from ancient times to today. As the first Latino museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the NMMA has taken its exhibitions nationwide, with landmarks including The African Presence in Mexico appearing in museums across the country, including the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum and the Oakland Museum of California. The museum further enriches the cultural landscape with programs ranging from dance to the annual Sor Juana Festival, celebrating Mexican women’s achievements in the arts, featuring artists, singers, and writers such as Vikki Carr, Lynda Carter, and Sandra Cisneros.

Visitors take photos of a painted ceiling at the National Hispanic Cultural Center

Explore the artworks of Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center, but don’t miss the excellent Latin fusion food in the restaurant too.

Courtesy of the National Hispanic Cultural Center

National Hispanic Cultural Center

The National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC), in Albuquerque’s historic Barelas neighborhood, is a hub for Hispanic arts and culture. Its expansive 20-acre campus with classic Southwestern terra-cotta architecture houses a visual arts museum, theaters, a library, and more, highlighting the richness of Hispanic, Chicano, and Latinx experiences. La Fonda del Bosque, a restaurant in the History and Literary Arts Building, provides a unique dining experience with Latin fusion cuisine amid New Mexico–inspired decor, offering dishes like mesquite steak tacos and chiles filled with wild mushrooms. For a sweet treat, go to Pop Fizz Paleteria in the Pete V. Domenici Education Building, which offers Mexican-style paletas (Popsicles) with an American twist and a range of delightful hot foods.

Esperanza Arts Center

The Esperanza Arts Center (EAC) is a hub for Latino arts and culture in North Philadelphia, a neighborhood with a large Latino community. You can’t miss the large mural in front of the center with black-and-white photos of children surrounded by colorful drawings of tropical nature. Here, you can immerse yourself in music, dance, theater, and cinema from Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond with a diverse calendar of events such as LatinX Composers – Astral Artists, in which composer Daniel de Jesus leads a group of young musicians. Inspired by a biblical call to serve, EAC has uplifted the Hispanic community for over 30 years, especially in the Hunting Park area. It offers empowering programs that nurture self-belief and resilience, such as dance, music, and film classes for the neighborhood youth. The center also has artist residencies and workshops for budding artists from the community.

San Antonio Museum of Art

Although the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) includes global exhibitions, its Latin American collection boasts around 8,000 pieces, a significant portion of its entire offerings. Step into the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Latin American Art, which opened in 1998, and wander its eight expansive galleries. Here, you’ll journey through 4,000 years, from the ancient arts of Mesoamerican societies to the impactful shifts post-Spanish invasion 500 ago. Its permanent collection includes carefully preserved Mayan earthenware from the 8th century and intricate paintings carved in mahogany by celebrated Nicaraguan artist Robert de la Selva depicting Indigenous life in the early 1900s. One of SAMA’s current exhibitions, A Legacy in Clay: The Ceramics of Tonalá, Mexico, highlights the journey of the ceramic artists of Tonalá throughout history.

Jessica van Dop DeJesus is a widely published travel and food content creator. She’s the founder of The Dining Traveler, and the author of the coffee table book, The Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico. Her writing and photography have been featured in publications such as AFAR, Business Insider, and Travel and Leisure among others. She was raised in Puerto Rico and began traveling as a young Marine 25 years ago. She has traveled to over 60 countries and lived in 6. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube @DiningTraveler.
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