Hispanic Heritage Month in Virginia

Virginia.gov honors the contributions of Hispanic Americans in Virginia during national Hispanic Heritage month, September 15 - October 15.

Noteworthy Hispanic Men and Women

Through Hispanic Heritage Month, Virginia.gov's spotlight celebrates the history, culture, and contributions of individuals who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean. Meet some of these noteworthy Virginians!

Photo of Elizabeth Guzman

Elizabeth R. Guzman

The Legislator

Elizabeth R. Guzman is a Peruvian-American politician and social worker elected to represent Virginia's 31st House of Delegates district in Virginia's House of Delegates. She serves on the House committees on Privileges and Elections and Cities, Counties, and Towns. Guzman was a Democratic candidate for Virginia Lieutenant Governor in 2021.

Guzman was Virginia co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign. In June 2020, Guzman was elected at the Democratic Party of Virginia State Convention to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia to the DNC.

Learn More about Elizabeth Guzman

Photo of Michel Zahur

Michel Zajur

The CEO

Michel immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico City as a child with his family in the 1960s. The family’s La Siesta restaurants became a vital point of contact for a developing community. Michel and his wife Lisa, an innovative educational leader, created a well-loved program to help local children and families learn about Latin American culture and the Spanish language through an interactive program dubbed “La Siesta Town.” Students from across Virginia were brought to the restaurant where they took “airplane rides” through Latin America, giving many Virginia children their first glimpse into a rich and diverse culture.

Learn More about Michel Zajur

Photo Isabel Castillo

Isabel Castillo

The Organizer

Isabel Castillo, a “DACAmented” immigrant from Mexico, has lived in the Shenandoah Valley for over 25 years. She holds both a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master’s in Conflict Transformation from Eastern Mennonite University and is passionate about social justice issues especially immigrant rights. She has helped organized a march on Washington, D.C. and staged a nonviolent sit-in at former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. For her unwavering advocacy for the passage of the DREAM Act, the University of San Francisco awarded Isabel an honorary doctorate on behalf of all collegiate undocumented youth. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer and spending time with her family.

Learn More about Isabel Castillo

The History and Facts

The History of Hispanic Heritage Month

The observance of Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting Sept. 15. The monthlong observance was enacted into law Aug. 17, 1988.

Hispanic Contributions to Virginia History

People of Hispanic heritage have long played important roles in Virginia history. In 1570, Spanish explorers established a Jesuit settlement at the confluence of the James and York rivers. Spain’s backing of the young colonies during the American Revolution provided much-needed financial, logistical and manpower resources.

What's the word?

The terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are often used interchangeably. "Hispanic" refers to people with origins in Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain. "Latino" describes people originating from Latin America, regardless of their native language.

Mexican Independence Day

Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

Mexico was the site of several advanced Amerindian civilizations - including the Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Maya, and Aztec.

Mexico was conquered and colonized by Spain in the early 16th century. Administered as the Viceroyalty of New Spain for three centuries, it achieved independence early in the 19th century. --The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency to the Legal Aid Justice Center

Latinxs in Virginia - Current Population estimates

Learning Resources

Check out the resources below to learn more about Hispanic Americans in Virginia.

Events

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at any of the events below