Maria Eugenia Verdaguer

Virginia chronology

In 1524 Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon sails up the James River and the Chesapeake Bay from Hispaniola. In 1526 he founds the ill-fated settlement of San Miguel de Guandape, located in the Tidewater area.

Spanish missionary Father Juan Bautista Segura sails the Chesapeake Bay and establishes the settlement of Axacan near the Rappahannock River. Killed by the Native Americans shortly after, Father Segura and the other missionaries become the first martyrs of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson and Venezuelan patriot Simon Bolivar establish a lifelong friendship that, in 1827, brings Bolivar’s nephew, Fernando, to study at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.

Starting in the 1950s, post-Bretton Woods institutions, such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Organization of American States, recruit successive contingents of Latin American international civil servants who settle beyond the nation’s capital, across the northern Virginia and Maryland suburban areas.

A small group of northern Virginia Latino community members found the Hispanic Committee of Virginia (HCV) to assist the growing Spanishspeaking migrant population in overcoming the cultural barriers preventing their faster integration to the larger community. HCV becomes the first Latino migrant-serving organization in the commonwealth.

Severe Andean droughts and political, economic, and environmental turmoil bring large numbers of Bolivians, Peruvians, Cubans, and other

South Americans to the northern Virginia region. Around the same time, Mexican agricultural laborers join the Shenandoah valley seasonal apple-harvesting industry.

1980s Salvadorans begin to migrate en masse to the Washington, DC, and northern Virginia regions, escaping protracted civil war and political persecution back home. Whereas a sizable share of Guatemalans and Nicaraguans settle in the area, Mexicans expand their participation in seasonal agricultural industries across other regions of Virginia.

1990s Migration to Virginia gains momentum, with geographical dispersion across the entire state. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Hurricane Mitch displace thousands of Mexicans and Hondurans, fueling further migration to the region.

1997 Latino students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville found the Bolivar Network an organization for alumni of Latin American birth, origin, or affinity to foster connections with one another and further enrich the diversity of the university and the wider Virginia community.

1999 Isis Castro, a Cuban-born bilingual instructional teacher with over 20 years of experience in K-12 education, is elected to serve a 4-year term on the school board for Fairfax County public schools, the largest school district in Virginia and the twelfth-largest school district in the nation.

2000 Mexican-born Michel Zajur founds the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (VHCC) at La Siesta Mexican Restaurant in Richmond. By building economic, social, and cultural bridges between Virginia and its growing Latino community, VHCC becomes the first statewide organization to represent Latinos in the Virginia business community.

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