: Portland Mercado, courtesy of Travel Portland

Celebrate Hispanic Culture in the Portland Region

Explore events, authentic eats and markets during Hispanic Heritage Month and all year long.
August 9, 2022

Bienvenido! Did you know that approximately 14% of Oregon’s population identifies as Hispanic, making it the largest minority group in Oregon? Many Portlanders have Hispanic or Latino heritage, and you’ll see evidence of a flourishing cultural landscape in many places in the Portland region. During National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–Oct. 15, 2022), the region comes alive with Hispanic and Latino cultural events. 

  • The El Grito Fiestas Patrias festival (Sept. 15-16, 2022) is the Pacific Northwest’s largest celebration of its kind. El Grito celebrates the independence of former Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America, and their vibrant cultures. Visitors enjoy traditional mariachi and folkloric dance, live music and a wide range of food and arts vendors.
  • The inaugural JUNTOSpdx celebration (Sept. 17-Oct. 15, 2022) was created to connect, inform, inspire and celebrate Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month, founder Cristian Vargas says. Families are invited to Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown during five individually themed weekends of activities including art and vintage crafts, stories of triumph, music and dance, artisan flea markets and community. There will be local vendors, low riders, piñatas, guest speakers, dancing and more.
  • The Portland Latin American Film Festival (Sept. 22-Nov. 17, 2022) — affiliated with the Hollywood Theatre — offers a wide range of innovative films. 

For even more Hispanic cultural events in the Portland area all year-round, this calendar provides a frequently updated list. While you’re in town, here are some Hispanic-owned businesses to support and savor these important communities in the Portland area.

 

hand holds circle-shaped bite of food with colorful ingredients on top
Republica, courtesy of Juan Jose Sanchez

Huevos Rancheros and Leather Wallets on West Side

If you’re in search of authentic Mexican brunch, La Fondita is just the place in downtown Portland. It offers fresh tortillas and even fresher takes on guisados (a meaty stew) and huevos rancheros. You absolutely must sample what the chef calls a “Mexican-forward” everchanging 5-course tasting menu at Republica, in the same restaurant group. It creates upscale interpretations of classics that might contain blue corn, apricot mole sauce, or amaranth grains, and are accompanied by a story about the origins of the dish.  

In the Pearl District, try a house horchata drink on draft and the cochinita roasted pork filling at Papi Chulo’s Tacos. Need a pick-me-up? Pájaro Coffee jokingly claims to be “the slowest coffee in town” because of the owner’s extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for making his own organic, plant-based drinks and specialty coffees. 

In downtown Portland, Orox Leather Co. makes truly beautiful, one-of-a-kind leather goods from wallets to apparel. The owners learned their craft in their home region of Oaxaca, Mexico, and moved to Portland after a stint in Japan. 

 

man on bended knee holds another man's hands
Milagro Theatre's "Duende de Lorca" production

Theater and Vibrant Mercado in Southeast Portland

The acclaimed Milagro Theatre produces and stages thought-provoking plays featuring Hispanic figures and themes, presented bilingually. Recently, they’ve been celebrating such giants as labor-rights activist Dolores Huerta and Spanish poet Federico García Lorca (at the theater through June of 2023, “Duende de Lorca”).

The smell of grilled meats and baked goods at the Portland Mercado greets you instantly. With festive music from the food trucks, cheerful colors everywhere and tables bustling with people, this pod is simply the place to go on the Eastside. The covered outdoor seating, diversity of cuisines and even a neighborhood bar make the Mercado one of the largest hubs for Latino culture in Portland. To take just one example, Principe Maya serves traditional Mayan dishes like saucy, cheesy codzitos taquitos. Don’t leave without specialty salsas or house-made blue tortillas from Kaah Market.

Birria, Asada Fries and Sopes East of Portland

Beloved Happy Valley and Gresham spot Carlos Birrieria turns out a scrumptious set of Mexican dishes made with birria, a slow-cooked, brick-red, spicy beef stew. The rich broth is served as a soup with ramen or alongside cheesy beef tacos or birria pizza wedges as a messy, saucy, delicious dip. Nearby, try asada fries or foot-long chile relleno burritos, or choose from an entire menu section of corn specialties at El Zalsoso taqueria. 

The east-side suburb of Gresham is filled with mom-and-pop dining destinations. One option is Agave Azul Mexican Restaurant, which serves delights like made-from-scratch sopes — crispy masa cakes served with refried beans and chicken or beef — and many others from an extensive menu. For everything from dried chiles to baked goods, stop by La Tapatia SuperMarket, a small grocery chain in Gresham, Portland and Salem.

brightly painted mural on side of blue building
La Bonita, courtesy of Justin Katigbak / Travel Portland

Vegan Burritos, Burgers and Conchas in North/Northeast Portland

After treasure hunting in the Alberta Arts District of Northeast Portland, try a chimichanga, a stuffed fried burrito at family-owned La Bonita. Their speciality comes filled with meat choices like chorizo, suadero (stewed beef) or tender chicken, each topped with scoops of guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream. Another Northeast Portland favorite is woman-owned Güero restaurant. Its expansive menu offers many hard-to-find dishes, but its version of a Mexican street favorite, the Hamburguesa, is one of the most popular. Two smash-burger patties are topped with grilled onion and chiles, pickled jalapenos, two kinds of cheese and ham.

Mis Tacones, a queer- and Chicanx-owned restaurant painted with murals in bold colors, serves all vegan food. Think burritos filled with asada seitan, beans and house-made cashew crema, or a gluten-free tofu-scramble empanadas. Latina-owned and family-operated vegan Mexican panaderia La Casa de Mamá (part of the same business) provides desserts. All trans people of color eat for free here — no questions asked — in an effort to raise more awareness around trans visibility.  

For a coffee break, pair a Matutina concha pastry with an espresso shot with milk, known as a  Cortadito, at La Perlita in North Portland. The coffee shop is a first-generation, Latino-owned spot advocating for greater representation in the industry. (Check out their other business, Reforma Coffee Roasters, downtown). 

For more pastries like chocoflan or pastel de tres leches — and a taqueria in back — stop by Tienda y Taqueria Santa Cruz across the soaring St. Johns Bridge in North Portland.

Street Fairs, Flamenco and Good Eats in the Tualatin Valley

Downtown Tigard’s Street Fair & Multicultural Festival (Sept. 10, 2022) features live music, food and fun activities for families. The festival aims to highlight and celebrate Latino cultures and heritages. And mark your calendar for next July for the city of Aloha’s Peruvian Cultural Festival.

Flamenco, anyone? Dancers in both Lake Oswego and Portland jump for joy at Experience Flamenco classes taught by Laura Onizuka. She also offers flamenco retreats on the Oregon Coast and trips to Spain.

Of the many Hispanic markets, food carts and restaurants in the area west of Portland, you won’t want to miss these two. The pride put into every dish at La Mixteca Oaxaca, a scrappy little restaurant that recently survived a fire in Hillsboro, is evident. Oaxacan American owner Lucia Vicencio and her husband, Jose, serve family recipes like tlayuda tradicional — a huge tortilla topped with meat and all kinds of goodies — and mole Oaxaqueño, a deeply spicy, aromatic sauce served over chicken. 

The Portland region’s first ever Puerto Rican eatery, Borikén Restaurant, is a Beaverton classic. Known for its delicious fried plantains, a tripe stew called mondongo and pork-stuffed tamales, dining at one of the restaurant’s 12 tables is always an intimate, family-style affair. 

About The
Author

Jordan Hernandez
Jordan Hernandez is a Portland-based writer and former Southerner. She has been a freelance writer for over a decade, and regularly writes and contributes to various publications both in print and online. You can find her hiking and camping, exploring and traveling through different parts of Oregon and beyond, or next to the cheese at any party.

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