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“The Story of Chocolate” Celebration Kicks Off Hispanic Heritage Month at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York

Program Highlights the Journey of Cacao From Tree to Taste Buds


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York will hold a weekend-long series Sept. 16 and 17 of performances, activities and talks in honor of this year’s National Hispanic Heritage Month. The museum’s program, titled “The Story of Chocolate,” invites visitors to make art, enjoy musical performances and learn about the history of the cacao tree. The museum’s cultural interpreters, along with artists and musicians, will lead the activities. The program will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. All events and museum admission are free.

“We are thrilled to present ‘The Story of Chocolate,’ as this is the first time we’re showcasing cacao and its many uses here at the New York museum,” said Catherine Gierke, museum program specialist. “We hope our visitors not only learn about chocolate, but leave with a better understanding of its roots in Mesoamerica.”     

Museum educator Evelyn Orantes (Quiche Maya) will teach visitors about cacao imagery in Mesoamerican pottery and lead an activity allowing visitors to create decorative Identity Plates by combining Mayan Glyphs. Visitors will also have a hands-on opportunity with the process of chocolate making, hosted by the Mixtec, 24-member Grupo Los Tecuanes, which originated in Acatlán de Osorio in the Mexican state of Puebla. Their “Blossom to Beverage” program will demonstrate how to grind cacao beans and froth chocolate.

Offering a more artistic perspective on the story of chocolate, Yaqui/Mexica artist Joaquin Alejandro Newman will invite all guests to participate in his Interactive Cacao Mural project, encouraging them to contribute to a mural that creatively interprets the design of a Mesoamerican cacao vessel.

“We paint and create things about what we love,” Newman said. “Cacao is such a treasured food, to make art that depicts it is to honor it as it deserves.”

Throughout the entire celebration, the traditional Guatemalan music group Marimba Lira Huehueteca will entertain guests with regular performances on the hour. The five-member group share their love for the pure, natural sound of the marimba, an all-wood instrument made from the Guatemalan Ormigo Tree.

The observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, was enacted into law in 1988 and celebrates the rich culture, history and legacy of American citizens who have roots in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean or Central and South America.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

The National Museum of the American Indian is committed to advancing knowledge and understanding of the Native cultures of the Western Hemisphere—past, present and future—through partnership with Native people and others. The museum’s George Gustav Heye Center is located at One Bowling Green in New York City. For additional information, including hours and directions, visit

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