You don’t have to be Latino to enjoy National Hispanic Heritage Month. But it sure helps to have a taste for tango, an ear for bachata music, and a passion for authentic imported goods you generally have to travel to Queens or abroad to find.

Those are just a few of the joys involved in saluting the history, culture and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The celebration began Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15.

This year, education as well as entertainment are both objectives for members of an ethnic group that has been much in the news.

“I hope this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is also a reminder of the many sacrifices Latinos have made for the U.S. in the military, civil service and the positive impacts they have made in their communities,” says Alex Nuñez, a board member of the Greater Westbury Council for the Arts, which hosts a celebration Sept. 25.

“Hispanics are a mosaic of nationalities and cultures, and Hispanic Heritage Month reminds us Latinos of our common language, our tastes in food, music and art.” Nuñez says. The Westbury event is “an inclusive celebration of Latino culture . . . to enjoy whether you are Latino or not.”


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“Our heritage is with us all the time, but this is an opportunity to share it,” says Tatiana Grez of Central Islip, a musician, writer, painter and immigrant from Santiago, Chile. Grez says she shares her native land’s traditions by making handmade jewelry with copper and semiprecious stones such as onyx and lapis lazuli. The jewelry is sold at the Yerbabruja Arts Center in Central Islip.

Authentic goods are also a specialty at TUMI, The Peruvian Store in Port Jefferson. The store sells clothing, silver jewelry and other goods imported from Peru, the homeland of store co-owner Maria Caballero of Centereach.

At another store with south-of-the-border connections, you can find the ingredients for a Mexican-style fiesta. Dulcemania, a Westbury sweet shop opened six months ago by Gabriela and Jose Monsurez of Glen Cove, sells piñatas and imported candies, handmade margarita glasses, ceramic hot chocolate cups and stone molcajetes — the mortar and pestle sets essential for making guacamole.

“Each piece has a significance in my culture,” Gabriela says. “For instance, the crafts made of clay are typical of my home state of Guerrero.”