More than a third of Orlando’s population is Hispanic and it continues to grow by leaps and bounds. While Puerto Ricans have been the largest portion of this community, it’s even more so now after Hurricane Irma displaced thousands who relocated to Central Florida. Mexicans, Dominicans, Columbians and others from South America also call Orlando home.
The city proudly showcases Florida’s Spanish-language roots starting with the arrival of conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon in the exhibit, First Contact: La Florida at the Orange County Regional History Center.
Festivals throughout the year highlight pride. In the fall, Festival Calle Orange is Central Florida largest Hispanic festival. Ten downtown streets are closed to accommodate four stages, 40 performances and dancing. One street is dedicated for children’s fun. The Puerto Rican Festival and Parade celebrates the Isle of Enchantment in the spring. Bring your dancing shoes in the summer for the Orlando Salsa Congress.
Most area hotels accommodate large groups with special rates and family-size arrangements in rooms and suites.
The area theme parks recognize all the various cultures have to offer: SeaWorld Orlando celebrates Three Kings Day with a processional featuring live animals, festive food and drinks, and “O Wondrous Night” – a live nativity. At Universal Orlando Resort, enjoy special dishes during Hispanic Heritage Month at Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food and Strong Water Tavern. Walt Disney World’s rejuvenated shopping, dining and entertainment area, Disney Springs, celebrity chef-owned Fontera Cocina, Jaleo and Bongos offer Mexican, Spanish and Cuban flavors. At Epcot theme park, the Mexican pavilion honors the heritage and tradition of tequila at La Cava del Tequila. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival usually include kiosks from various Hispanic, Latin, and Caribbean countries, serving inspired food and drinks.
Might be hard to believe in North America there’s a hotbed of fútbol interest, but Orlando is considered the “best city in the nation for soccer,” according to personal finance website, WalletHub. Two professional soccer leagues thrive in Central Florida, Orlando City (men’s) and Orlando Pride (women’s). International teams also flock to ESPN Wide World of Sports for training and exhibition play. During Hispanic Heritage Month in the fall, the city, museums, concert venues, even libraries celebrate with special exhibits, live performances, food, and movies.
While Hispanics hold leadership positions in government, business, sports, media and the arts in Orlando, the appreciation of the community might be most noted from the 2016 horrific mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub and Hurricane Irma in 2017. At the Orlando International Airport, you’ll see government and community resources available to those who are relocating from Puerto Rico and need immediate assistance to find homes, work, and support.
The attack at the Pulse nightclub took place on Latin night, and 90 percent of the victims were Hispanic. To honor their memory and legacy, you may see artifacts at the location left in memory of the 49 who died. The Orange County Regional History Center has also begun the One Orlando Collection, a digital gallery to preserve each individual’s story.