By Gillian Burdett

Hispanic culture is more than fast-food tacos. The music of Tito Puente, the literature of Oscar Hijuelos and the art of Mabel Alvarez are woven into the fabric of the United States. Pop culture would certainly suffer without the entertainment of actress Sophia Vergara and comedian George Lopez, not to mention the Latin dance steps practiced by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the cult classic “Dirty Dancing.” Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, celebrates the cultural contributions of Hispanic Americans. Nearly 16 percent of Connecticut’s population has Hispanic or Latino origins, and their rich cultural heritage can be found across the state. Here are our picks for the best ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in the Constitution State.

Latin Music Festival
Paradise Green
121 Huntington Road
Stratford, CT 06614
(203) 377-2017

Date: Sept. 10, 2017 at 12 p.m.

The Latin Music Fest, sponsored by the Stratford Hispanic Heritage Committee, is one of the largest of its kind in the region. The festival features music from Spanish-speaking nations with performances by top regional Latin bands. Folk dancers will move to the Latin beats. The music festival includes food with tastes of Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and Puerto Rico.

¡Fiesta Latina!
Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
170 Whitney Ave.
New Haven, CT 06520
(203) 432-5050

Date: Oct. 14, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This day-long festival is held in conjunction with the Junta for Progressive Action. The Fiesta features traditional and contemporary music and dance from Latin America. Activities for children and families are spread throughout the museum. There will be food demonstrations, storytelling, face painting and mask making. The museum will offer tours in Spanish and English. Admission is free. Free parking is available at the museum and in the adjacent Yale campus parking lots.

Hispanic Heritage Month at Southern State
Adanti Student Center
Southern Connecticut State University
501 Crescent St.
New Haven, CT 06515
(203) 392-5888

Date: Sept. 15, 2017 through Oct. 15, 2017

The Multicultural Center and Organization of Latin American Students at Southern celebrate the traditions of Hispanic and Latin Americans with an activity-filled month. Fiestas, food tastings, lectures and the Noche De Gala, a semi-formal ball, highlight the rich cultures of Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America. While on campus, visit the Buley Library to view the works of Hispanic musicians, writers and filmmakers. Dates and times of specific events will be posted at the  Southern State website during the months leading up to Hispanic Heritage Month.

Related: Top Mexican Restaurants In Connecticut

The Joe Carter Samba Rio Trio
Wells Turner Memorial Library
2407 Main St.
Glastonbury, CT 06033
(860) 652-7719

Date: Sept. 24, 2017 at 2 p.m.

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage with a performance by this international Brazilian Jazz Trio. Classical guitarist Joe Carter, with acoustic bass player Leco Reis and percussionist Adriano Santos combine classic Brazilian music with their own compositions and some North American jazz improvisation. The result is a spirited take on the Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro. Seating is limited; reservations are required. Contact the Reference Desk, (860) 652-7720, after Aug. 28 to save a spot.

Salsa Haven Salsa Night
Fornarelli’s Restaurant
99 Orange St.
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 641-7261

Date: Every Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Learn the moves with Jeff Hudson, owner of Rumberos Dance Studio in New Haven.This weekly dance party is held at Fornarelli’s, which boasts a large, wood dance floor, perfect for Salsa and Bachata action. Music is provided by DJ Harry T of Salsa Warriors Radio. Admission is only $5.

Related: Best Ways To Celebrate Cinco de Mayo In Connecticut