From inspiring music to vibrant paintings, Latino art has influenced American society through a range of creative art forms. 

Latino Musicians

Many music legends are part of the Latino community. Latin music has had a long presence in the United States and has brought many unique sounds and styles that are widely popular, like salsa and reggaeton. From rock to hip hop, Latino musicians have transcended boundaries and often showcase traditional Latin rhythms and sounds in their music. Latino musicians who have left a mark on pop culture include:

Click to expand image Portraiit of young Willie Colón standing sideways and looking at the camera. He is wearing a collar shirt and a blazer.
Willie Colón. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 1986, ADÁL
Willie Colón

An artist central to creating New York’s Salsa music style in the 1970s, Willie Colón is a musical pioneer. Known for his skilled trombone playing, Colón is also a talented composer, arranger, singer, and much more. His music brings together many different cultures and styles to create his signature sound.
Click to expand image Selena Quintanilla performing on stage wearing a black leather jacket, black satin bustier, tight pants and boots.
Selena by Al Rendon. National Museum of American History.

Known as the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena was instrumental in opening doors for future generations of Latino musicians. She began performing Tejano music with her Mexican-American family at a very young age. In 1994, she became the first Tejano artist to win a Grammy. Despite her untimely end, Selena had a very accomplished career that continues to inspire generations of musicians and fans.
Click to expand image Portrait of singer Pitbul standing and extending his hands down and wide open.
Armando Christian Peréz (Pitbull). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2010 Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

A rapper, singer, songwriter, and more, Pitbull’s fast and energetic hits have taken the Latino influence in mainstream music to new heights.
Click to expand image Portrait of singer Marc Anthony with his arms outstreched while singing.
Marc Anthony. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 1999, ADÁL
Marc Anthony

A top crossover artist, Marc Anthony combines Latin rhythms, ballads, and mainstream pop music to further shape the diverse musical landscape in the United States. Anthony, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, is a pioneer of the Latin pop movement in the United States - his eponymous album from 2000 went triple-platinum, and he continued on to win 10 awards at the 2014 Billboard Latin Music Awards.

Explore the Smithsonian collections to learn more about groundbreaking Latino musicians. 

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Latino Art and Artists

Latino art embraces a captivating and diverse range of styles, including the creation of colorful paintings and murals, vibrant glass, and unique pottery. This dynamic group of artists often blends ancestral traditions with contemporary artistic styles to craft pieces that share their stories and spotlight issues important to their communities. Some of the Latina and Latino artists who have helped to expand the art scene in the United States with work that resonates across cultures include:

Judith “Judy” Baca 

As someone who experienced the Chicano Movement, an era of Mexican American civil rights activism, Judy Baca knows how art can be a tool to empower communities. Through murals, monuments, paintings, sculptures, and more, Baca shares the stories of people who have contributed to U.S. history yet are often excluded from its retellings.

Click to expand image Illustration of Judy Baca holding a large paintbrush in front of a mural.
Rafael López, 2021

Antonio Sotomayor

Known primarily for his imaginative murals and paintings, Bolivian-born artist Antonio Sotomayor was a great contributor to growing the popularity of Latino Art in the United States.

Click to expand image Photograph of Antonio Sotomayor painting on a panel of glass.
Antonio Sotomayor, circa 1935. Antonio Sotomayor papers, circa 1920-1988. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The de la Torre Brothers

Mixed Media artists and brothers Einar and Jamex de la Torre collaborate to develop pieces that feature a blend of cultural influences. In their childhood, the brothers moved with their family from Mexico to the United States, and their work often draws from their resulting multifaceted views of the world. The brothers work in a variety of mediums, including blown glass, cast resin and lenticular prints.

Click to expand image de la Torre Bothers posing in studio next to artworks
National Museum of the American Latino, 2023

Ana Mendieta

A Cuban-American performance artist, Ana Mendieta created a range of artistic works that drew from her experience of exile and displacement. She used photography, film, video, drawing, and more to craft groundbreaking and transformational pieces.

Click to expand image Still image of the face of Ana Mendieta. He eyes are closed.
Still image from Ana Mendieta’s Sweating Blood, 1973. Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Rafael López

Through his illustrations, López brings vibrant and diverse characters to children’s books. In 2022 he created portraits for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino and taught workshops as the first Guest Artist of the Smithsonian Postal Museum. His light installation hangs in our gallery's General Motors Learning Lounge.

Click to expand image Rafael López visiting the GM Learning Lounge and looking up at the light installation that he created. Hanguing from the ceiling is a lamp that has many colored squares with illustrations by the artist.
Rafael López visiting the GM Learning Lounge at the Molina Family Latino Gallery. Courtesy of Adrián Aldaba.

Roberto Lugo 

Putting a modern twist on classic styles, Roberto Lugo crafts ceramics that feature themes of poverty, inequality, and racial injustice.

Click to expand image Colorful vase made of glazed stoneware with enamel paint and luster.
Roberto Lugo, Juicy, 2021, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Get to know more about the diverse Latino artists who have pushed the boundaries of artistic expression.

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Latino Actors

Click to expand image Portrait of Diosa Costello.
Diosa Costello, National Museum of American History Archives Center.
Diosa Costello 

Costello’s decades-long career included performances on Broadway, in films, in nightclubs, and more. Her electric and passionate style paved the way for future generations of Latina performers.
Click to expand image Postal stamp featuring actor Desi Arnaz giving Lucy a kiss on the cheek
I Love Lucy stamp issued as part of the Commemorate the Century: 1950's issue on May 26, 1999. United States Postal Service. © USPS all rights reserved.
Desi Arnaz 

A Cuban bandleader and actor, Desi Arnaz served in the Army during World War II. He later went on to appear in Broadway shows and films and famously co-founded Desilu Productions with Lucille Ball. The two starred in the television show “I Love Lucy," which frequently dominated ratings.
Click to expand image Portrait of actress America Ferrera
America Ferrera. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. © 2011 Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
America Ferrera

Ferrera has had an acclaimed career so far as an actress, producer, and director. She has received numerous awards for her work, including an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Born in Los Angeles to Honduran parents, Ferrera has been an advocate for increased Latina representation in the media throughout her career.