How to Immerse Latin Culture in Kentucky
By Lola Méndez
Kentucky has a vibrant Latine community spreading across numerous cities with over 4.5 million people of Latin American heritage calling the Bluegrass State home. Thirteen of Kentucky’s counties have a Latinx population of five percent or more. Want to be more immersed in Kentucky's Latin Culture? Explore the experiences below:
Neighborhoods to discover
Lexington is home to a diverse Latinx community, as the city has long been a popular place to to live for folks working in the horse and agriculture industries. On the west side of the city near the Keeneland Race Track is an area affectionately nicknamed “Mexington'' due to many Latinx immigrants living there. It’s an area beaming with Kentucky-Mexican pride and with many authentic Mexican restaurants.
Be serenaded by the sounds of Latin America
For more than five years, the Latin Music Awards Kentucky has been held in downtown Louisville at Fourth Street Live and includes a red carpet, awards ceremony, and live performances. The event benefits local Latinx non-profit organizations and provides Latinx students with partial music scholarships. Another annual event for Latinx music is the Fiesta Latina held during Lexington's Bluegrass Fair. During the 11-night festival, some of the best Latin music performers from the region grace the stage.
Check out performances by local Latinx artists throughout the year. Local award-winning Latin singer Asly Toro is originally from Barinas, Venezuela. She now lives in Kentucky and performs her Latin pop music across the state. Toro won Best Latin Female Artist at the inaugural Latin Music Awards Kentucky. Listen to “Escorpion” by Leu-G feat and Asly Toro on all streaming platforms.
Catch a performance by Lexington’s bilingual folk opera group, CornBread & Tortillas. The multidisciplinary folk opera incorporates traditional storytelling, instruments and dances from Latin America. Several of the band members are Latinx and honor their heritage in the collective’s performances. Mexican-American Paulina Vazquez performs Ballet Folklórico Mexicano with nails in her shoes to create a tapping noise. Vazquez comes from a family heritage of folk dancing — both her mom and grandmother were also dancers.
Taste the flavor of Latin American cuisine
Culinary traditions from Latin America are diverse and delicious — and, fortunately, have made their way across Kentucky. Throughout the state, you’ll find restaurants serving up the most celebrated flavors from Latin America, preparing traditional dishes from Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and more. Don’t miss Tortilleria Y Taqueria Ramírez in Lexington for burritos, Alchemy for Venezuelan arepas in Louisville and Mami Monchitas for Honduran food in Frankfort.
Kentucky — Latinx Cultural Immersion
Horses are cultural cornerstones for both Latin Americans and Kentuckians. The two worlds, with their shared love of horses, collide at the Commonwealth Polo Club in Paris, Ky. The club is operated by Chilean Jorge Vasquez and Argentinian Juan Valerdi. Vasquez is a U.S. Polo Association certified instructor and has played polo all over the world. Valerdi has played polo across the U.S. and Argentina. At the Club, tourists of all ages can visit and join polo lessons.
Shop and support Latinx artists in Kentucky
Local Dominican artist Sebastian Duverge is known for his stunning, vibrantly colored artwork. His handcrafted paper mosaics, paper weavings, watercolor mosaics, ceramics and greeting cards are all “Kentucky Crafted” and inspired by his favorite pastime of walking in Louisville’s Cherokee Park. Support his work by buying his art for a meaningful souvenir from your time in Kentucky.
Buy paintings from Queer artist Clay Mata who is of Mexican descent and gathers inspiration for her motifs and color palettes from her Latin American roots. She’s known for leaving her characters without faces so that the viewer can imagine who it is in the painting.