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Sep 14

Hispanic Heritage in Roanoke

Posted on September 14, 2020 at 11:47 AM by Melinda Mayo


More than 5,000 of our residents define themselves as Hispanic or Latinx.  Beginning this week (Sept. 15), we join in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The first part of this celebration dovetails with Welcoming Week, with this year’s theme of “Creating Home Together.”  

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture and contributions of both Hispanic and Latino Americans.  Starting as a week of celebration in 1968, National Hispanic Heritage Month was expanded to a full month and enacted into law in 1988 by then President Ronald Reagan.  The celebration coincides with national independence days in several Latin American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica celebrate on Sept. 15, followed by Mexico on Sept. 16, Chile on Sept. 18, and Belize on Sept 21.

From the Beginning

Virginia has the 15th largest Hispanic population in the Nation, a presence dating back more than 500 years.  In 1526 explorers from Hispaniola (today the Dominican Republic) settled in an area near present-day Jamestown.  In addition to this first settlement, contributions of Hispanics are evident throughout Virginia and its 400-plus years of history, right up to the present day.  Early contributions include financial and military support for Colonists during the Revolutionary War.  Legend has it that even the horses on Chincoteague Island may be traced back to Hispanics—the descendants of horses from Spanish galleon shipwrecks!

Through to Today

With nearly 800,000 Virginians claiming Hispanic heritage and more than 6,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Virginia, contributions are many and varied.  Roanoke has the benefit of numerous contributions by our Hispanic residents.  Local businesses, restaurants, and cultural offerings enrich our community and add greatly to our diversity.  We benefit from researchers, doctors, teachers, police officers, artists, contractors, realtors, and others with Hispanic heritage.  Organizations such as Casa Latina - Roanoke Valley  and Nuestro Comercio Latino are working hard to further empower Hispanic individuals and businesses in our community.  Local Colors, a local group championing ethnic diversity present in our community, will be hosting a series of virtual presentations throughout the month via their Facebook page, celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  Similarly, additional offerings will be posted as part of the ongoing Welcoming Week events via the City’s social media.  

So let’s join together and celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, and the contributions our Hispanic neighbors make in our community and to Roanoke’s vibrancy!  

--Bob Cowell


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