Hispanic and Latino History & Culture in Orlando
Given the fact that Florida learned to speak Spanish long before English, it should come as no surprise that Orlando is home to robust Hispanic and Latino communities. In fact, per the U.S. Census Bureau, residents who identify as Hispanic or Latino account for more than 25% of the population inside our city limits, and over 30% throughout surrounding Orange County. As a result, the Orlando area offers fascinating examples of Hispanic and Latino history and influence, including cultural attractions, special events, restaurants and other reasons to visit that you won’t want to miss. Start here to discover it all.
Learn more: Diversity & Inclusion in Orlando
Orlando’s Hispanic and Latino communities hail from a richly diverse mix of countries and cultures. A majority claim Puerto Rican heritage, owing both to ease of travel between Orlando and the U.S. territory and, more recently, the widespread devastation Puerto Rico suffered during Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Learn more: Orlando History
All told, residents of Puerto Rican descent account for nearly 15% of Orange County’s population, followed by locals who claim Mexican (3.2%) and Cuban (2.9%) heritage, with just about every other Hispanic and Latino nation also being represented. These communities are integral to Central Florida’s economic, social and political wellbeing, taking cues from their ancestors’ traditions while helping to shape the region’s future.
Cultural venues throughout the area pay homage to Hispanic and Latino heritage, beginning with the Orlando Museum of Art near downtown Orlando. There, the Art of the Ancient Americans Collection boasts over 900 works of art from more than 35 ancient cultures, including the Inca of Peru and Aztecs of central Mexico. You’ll also find the most comprehensive collection of Mexican Chupícuaro figurines in the southeastern U.S., with 160 different examples waiting to wow you.
Learn more: Orlando Museums & Galleries
North of downtown Orlando in Winter Park, Casa Feliz (“Happy House” in English) is an Andalusian-style masonry farmhouse built on the shores of Lake Osceola during the Great Depression and since moved to its current location on Park Avenue. A must-visit for anyone with an interest in Spanish architecture, it offers docent-led tours of the home and grounds on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
No matter when you visit Orlando, you’ll find special events and other unique things to do while you’re in town. Here are some of our top Hispanic and Latino cultural events that every visitor should experience at least once.
Learn more: Orlando Events
FLORIDA PUERTO RICAN PARADE & FESTIVAL (April)
Held in downtown Orlando, the Florida Puerto Rican Parade & Festival starts with a vibrant parade through downtown Orlando. The fun then continues with food, live music, arts and crafts, and vendors. It’s part of a statewide Puerto Rican Parade initiative, which holds simultaneous parades in cities across Florida.
ORLANDO SALSA CONGRESS (July)
More than being one of the year’s hottest dance parties, this multi-day event also features pool parties, workshops, shows, concerts, shopping, socializing — and even more pool parties.
HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH (SEPT. 15 – OCT. 15)
This month-long celebration is officially recognized by both the City of Orlando and Orange County governments, which host special events such as receptions, art exhibitions, the Orange County Mayor’s Cup Soccer Tournament, and other reasons to visit.
Learn more: Hispanic Heritage Month in Orlando
FESTIVAL CALLE ORANGE (October)
A massive, one-day celebration of music, Festival Calle Orange takes over 10 blocks of downtown Orlando with dozens of national and international artists on three action-packed stages, representing musical styles such as salsa, merengue and bachata. Traditional Latin food and beverages are available for purchase.
When it comes to authentic Hispanic and Latino food, Orlando has excellent representation not just in our main tourism districts, but throughout the Central Florida area — including these standouts.
Authentic Mexican Restaurants in Orlando
Border Grill Fresh-Mex: Enjoy made-to-order dishes and a salsa bar close to Universal Orlando Resort.
Bugambilias: Minutes from The Florida Mall®, this eatery offers authentic Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes.
El Patrón: Mexican favorites and jumbo margaritas are house specialties at this stylish, family-owned restaurant near Walt Disney World® Resort.
El Tenampa: With locations close to Walt Disney World and The Florida Mall, these restaurants serve delicious and authentic flavors for all your mealtime cravings.
Mariachi Mexican Restaurant: Formerly called Toño’s Mexican Food, this no-frills joint for burritos and other Mexican standards is just north of The Florida Mall.
Taquería Ameca: At both of this option’s locations south of downtown Orlando, expect authentic Mexican food and ambiance.
Tortas El Rey: South of downtown Orlando, this unfussy fast-casual outlet offers an array of Mexican fare, plus outdoor seating.
Tortilleria La Mexicana: This easy-going cantina with a vibrant decor serves classic Mexican platters and potent margaritas with locations close to Walt Disney World and Universal.
Authentic Colombian Restaurants in Orlando
CFS Coffee: Specializing in producing high-quality coffee and first established in Colombia in 2010, CFS opened its first U.S. shop in Winter Park back in 2016, and has since added locations in downtown Orlando, close to Universal Studios, Dr. Phillips and Lake Nona. Each provides a cozy place like home where you can eat and drink healthily while relaxing.
Colombia La Bella Restaurant: Head to Longwood north of Winter Park for exceptional Colombian and Latin food at exceptional prices.
Rincón Montañero: Around the corner from Orlando Executive Airport just east of downtown, this laid-back venue serves Colombian favorites, natural juices and more.
Oh! Que Bueno Restaurant Grill and Bar: One of many Latin restaurants north of Orlando International Airport, this eatery specializes in exquisite dishes and great cocktails.
Pollos a La Brasa Mario: Authentic Latin American fare is served in a cheery atmosphere at this restaurant close to The Florida Mall.
Simón Parrilla Restaurant and Grill: Adjacent to The Florida Mall, this colorful venue offers Colombian cuisine, cocktails and regular live music.
Tex-Mex Restaurants in Orlando
Agave Azul: With several locations throughout the area, this contemporary Mexican restaurant specializes in hand-crafted dishes with a twist.
Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food: This modern and colorful restaurant serves from-scratch Mexican street food at Universal CityWalk.
Learn more: Universal CityWalk
Azteca D’Oro: With two locations to choose from, including Lake Nona and Winter Garden, this restaurant group serves as ambassadors of Mexican culture, traditions and cuisine.
Learn more: Orlando Neighborhoods
Chronic Tacos: Playful and edgy decor helps create an engaging experience at this family of restaurants, which has an outpost in Orlando’s Restaurant Row area near Universal.
Learn more: Restaurant Row
Chuy’s: This popular Tex-Mex chain has locations throughout the Orlando area, including our main tourism districts.
El Potro: With four locations, including Winter Park, Apopka, southeast Orlando and close to Universal Orlando, you’ll have ample opportunities to try this local favorite.
Learn more: DISNEY SPRINGS
Garibaldi Mexican Cuisine: A family-owned local favorite, this restaurant just outside The Florida Mall features traditional Mexican fare, plus live mariachi bands on weekends.
Reyes Mezcaleria: Headed by Food Network personality Chef Wendy Lopez, Reyes Mezcaleria in downtown Orlando’s North Quarter district specializes in agave spirits and regionally inspired Mexican dishes.
Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar: The party never ends at this glitzy option, which is part of Orlando’s famous Restaurant Row near International Drive.
Uncle Julio’s: Head to ICON Park® on International Drive for this eatery’s famous Chocolate Piñata, among other mouthwatering dishes.
Learn more: ICON Park