#HispanicHeritageMonth officially kicks off today, September 15, and runs through October 15. It begins on the Independence Days of five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua – and continues with a nod to the Independence Days of Mexico and Chile, respectively, on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18. Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to reflect on the impact that the Hispanic population has had on our country, just as every previous wave of immigrants has influenced our culture in the United States.

Earlier this summer, Colombian artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta and I released our new art book, Portraits of Immigrant Voices. It features the stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond, Virginia from around the world to become our neighbors. The project originally started in August 2020 when Virginia Humanities and the City of Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE) commissioned Alfonso and me to create these portraits to celebrate National Immigrants’ Day on October 28. The portraits and stories then evolved into our new book, which you can buy online here.

I recommend reading Brenda Aroche’s story, A World of Opportunities, about her journey of coming from Guatemala to settle down with her family in Virginia. Richmond Magazine featured her story (and three others) in this book excerpt – HEAR MY VOICE: A new book shares the stories of 22 immigrants who now call Richmond home – which you can read online for FREE. While writing the book, I realized how immigrant stories, no matter where the subject is from, reflect the subjects’ ability to overcome numerous obstacles and, in Brenda’s words, “to demonstrate the best of ourselves, manifesting our hopes and dreams.”

Portraits of Immigrant Voices
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When Virginia Tourism commissioned me to write this story – Let’s support Virginia’s Latino-owned restaurants during Hispanic Heritage Month (and all year round) – I interviewed a number of Latino restauranteurs in Virginia and saw firsthand how much creativity and tenacity they bring to their entrepreneurial efforts, manifesting their own hopes and dreams. If you ever happen to drive through Virginia, I highly recommend visiting one of the restaurants on the list.

In conclusion, if there’s one thing that brings people together, it is certainly food. So, if you wish to celebrate and honor Hispanic Heritage Month, I hope you find an opportunity to meet with friends and/or family to enjoy tacos, arepas, pupusas, and other Latin American delicacies. ¡Buen provecho!

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