SBPL Celebrates the Culture of Santa Barbara Latin American Immigrants

Authored on
September 14, 2021

(En Español)

The Santa Barbara Public Library invites the community to a month-long series of events celebrating the culture of Santa Barbara Latin American immigrants. With support from a California Humanities Library Innovation Lab grant, programs in the Integrating Immigrants series highlight music, art, poetry, and food of the Latin American immigrant community, with the goal of bringing together immigrants as well as sharing their culture with all Santa Barbara area residents.

Events include An Evening of Afro-Latino Music and Dance with Radio Café; Art Gallery Exhibition, Things We Do Not Say: Intergenerational Conversations through Art on Taboo Subjects in Immigrant Families; a poetry and zine workshop for bilingual young adults led by a local poet; and Taste of Home – home recipe contest and cookbook collection celebrating Latin American cuisine.

California Humanities Library Innovation Lab programs are developed over a period of nine months with the goal of responding to the needs and circumstances of today’s immigrants and immigrant communities and fostering more inclusive communities within California. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Santa Barbara Public Library conducted extensive outreach to develop a series of events for and with the local immigrant community. 

Library staff, who are Latin American immigrants themselves, reached out to community members from diverse, cultural backgrounds, including recent immigrants and those whose families had been in the United States for generations. A clear theme emerged from conversations with all: aspirations to connect with one another and develop stronger bonds between immigrants from different backgrounds, as well as a desire for the rest of Santa Barbara to more fully appreciate the diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and cultures. 

Eric Castro, Library Innovation Lab leader for Santa Barbara Public Library, explains, “the immigrants I met with all expressed a desire to participate in events that allow them to reconnect with their culture and traditions in a welcoming and safe space where they can explore and share aspects of Latin American culture, and somehow feel at home again with people that represent their culture. Especially important to them was finding ways to share aspects of their culture with their children.” 

The Integrating Immigrants Series will bring immigrants together to share music, dance, art, poetry, and their favorite recipes with each other, as well as invite the rest of the Santa Barbara community to experience the rich tapestry of Latin American culture.

“American public libraries have played an important role in welcoming newcomers throughout our history,” said Julie Fry, President & CEO of California Humanities. “This year, the cohort of our Library Innovation Lab program will continue that legacy by building capacity within California libraries for all communities in our state—from newly arrived immigrants to longtime residents.”

Afro Peruvian Concert with Radio Café

October 15, 2021 at 5:30 pm 

Central Library Lower Plaza

40 E. Anapamu Street

The community is invited to a showcase of Afro-Latin music and culture in an afternoon with Latin music vibes with Radio Café, a musical trio specializing in Afro-Peruvian music, Cumbia and Son.

Radio Café’s sound brings together an electric guitar with its rocking groove, a Peruvian cajon with its vibrant wood sound, and a tuba taken from the context of symphony orchestras to add versatility to its bass sound. After the concert, there will be a bilingual Spanish/English conversation with the musicians on Afro-Latino culture, diaspora, history, and more. Masks are required and capacity is limited to allow for social distancing. Please register via the Library’s website for reserved seating. 

Things We Do Not Say Art Exhibit

September 15 - October 30

Faulkner Gallery Central Library

40 E. Anapamu Street

This art show features works by local Latin American immigrant artists in a variety of mediums. Their works focus on how different artistic expressions communicate the artist’s unique vision and experience as an immigrant to older generations in the hope that these works can provoke an open intergenerational conversation about any aspect of their lives that are not easily spoken about within families as they negotiate their identity as immigrants in a new country. This art exhibit can be viewed at the Central Library Faulkner West Gallery through October 30th, 2021 during Library open hours. In lieu of a reception, the Library will be producing a video interview with participating artists. 

Taste of Home Cookbook Contest

Accepting submissions through October 15

​Food is a celebration of culture, connecting us to family heritage. Recipes passed down through generations are a way to maintain traditions. This is especially true for immigrant families. A favorite recipe can instantly transport someone to their country of origin and offer their children a taste of home. Whether recited and memorized and passed down through the oral tradition or preserved in handwritten note cards in familiar handwriting, these recipes have stood the test of time. SBPL invites members of the immigrant community to submit their family's best recipe for the chance to be featured in a cookbook published by SBPL and added to the library’s collections. Contributors will also receive a copy of the cookbook.

For more information about this contest and to submit a recipe of your own, visit the Library’s website.

Immigrant Identity Bilingual Poetry/Zine Workshop
October 1, 2021 at 5:30 pm

Eastside Library Outdoor Patio

1102 E. Montecito Street

Led by SBCC professor and poet Joshua Escobar, this workshop will support bilingual young adults in reflecting on their experience as a child of immigrants while writing and designing their own DIY magazine, or zine, while learning collage and layout techniques. This workshop will be held at the Eastside Library 1102 E Montecito St, Santa Barbara, CA at 5:30 pm. 

The Integrating Immigrants program series is made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

About California Humanities:  

California Humanities, a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, promotes the humanities—focused on ideas, conversation, and learning—as relevant, meaningful ways to understand the human condition and connect people to each other in order to help strengthen California. California Humanities has provided grants and programs across the state since 1975. To learn more, visit, or like and follow California Humanities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Visit the Santa Barbara Public Library online at for information about programs and services. All library programs are free and open to the public.