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!
CEO & FOUNDER OF THE VIRGINIA HISPANIC CHAMBER COMMERCE
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.
Arts and Literature, Education
Born near Cochabamba in the central highlands of Bolivia, she is a leader in the preservation of her native Quechua language and Bolivian folk traditions, especially dance. She teaches Spanish at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington.
Chair of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board
Lyons Sanchezconcha serves as the graduation coach at Huguenot High School in Richmond Public Schools. Having previously served in roles in college access, student-athlete advising, restorative practices, and as a classroom teacher, Lyons is passionate about expanding opportunities to students and families in Richmond, and across Virginia.
FOUNDER AND ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE LATIN BALLET OF VIRGINIA
The Ambassador of Dance and Culture
The joy and beauty of South American dance and culture has become a part of Richmond and Virginia's culture thanks to the work of Ana Ines Barragan King.
One of the Library of Virginia's Women in History honorees, King is a native of Columbia, South America who learned dance from her mother at a young age. She moved to Richmond and VCU after marriage, and in 1997 established the Latin Ballet of Virginia.
Community Activist | 1917-2013
Born in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, Providencia "Provi" Velazquez Gonzalez moved to New York in 1934 in order to continue nursing studies. On a visit to her former island home, she became dismayed at the lack of resources doctors had to treat cancer patients. After returning to New York, she organized a Latino marathon that raised $20,000 for Corazones Contra El Cancer (Hearts against Cancer), which donated the funds to a hospital in Puerto Rico for oncology research and treatment.
Founder and CEO of SimIS Inc. and Health Care Simulations LLC
Dr. Garcia has become an innovation leader in the modeling and simulation, test and evaluation, autonomous vehicle, software development, and cyber security industries. His pioneering work in medical training simulations, enterprise architecture and unmanned systems has led to numerous regional and national awards. He is Founder and CEO of SimIS Inc. and Health Care Simulations LLC.