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Virginia historical overview

Early Antecedents

Although historical antecedents date back to the early sixteenth century, the pronounced Latino presence across Virginia is a very recent phenomenon. In 1524 Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon sailed up the James River and the Chesapeake Bay to establish, in the Tidewater area, San Miguel de Guandape. There is controversy over the precise location of this short-lived settlement: Georgians, South Carolinians, and Virginians all claim it as their own. Six hundred people, including many African slaves and two Dominican priests, lived in the colony. Eventually, ship fever claimed the life of Vazquez de Ayllon, and most colonists died from the harsh winter and hostile attacks by Native Americans. By 1527 all survivors had returned to Hispaniola.

A few decades later, Father Juan Bautista Segura, a young Powhatan Indian acting as a translator (known as Don Luis), and another missionary sailed the Chesapeake Bay to establish a mission without soldiers. In 1570 they founded the settlement of Axacan, near the Rappahannock River. Yet a few more centuries would pass before the first Latin America-Virginia connection emerged. In 1827 Thomas Jefferson’s friendship with Simon Bolivar prompted the latter’s nephew, Fernando, to study at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

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