Hispanics and Latinos can trace their heritage back 500 years in Virginia, almost a full century before the English landed at Jamestown in 1607.
Explorers & Missionaries
In 1524, Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón from Hispaniola, Dominican Republic, sailed up the Rio Guandape, which is known today as the James River and Chesapeake Bay. In 1526, he founded the settlement of San Miguel de Guandape, which some scholars believe was near present-day Jamestown. Six hundred people, many of them African slaves, lived in the colony, including two Dominican priests.
Unfortunately, Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón died of ship fever, and about 450 colonists died from the harsh winter and hostile attacks by the Indians. Some of the slaves probably escaped and lived with the Indians. In 1527, the survivors
Today, about 400,000 people in Virginia are Hispanic, with ancestral roots in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central and South America.
Jamestown - At Jamestown Settlement and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown learn about the Spanish Jesuits who set up the Aljacan Mission on the York River in 1570. Also, learn more about Spain's help during the American Revolution.
Newport News - See the Age of Exploration Gallery at The Mariners' Museum and Park and learn about the Spanish explorer Juan Menendez Marques who sailed the Chesapeake Bay looking for the Northwest Passage to the Orient. He picked up a young Powhatan Indian as a translator, who became known as Don Luis, and built a settlement called Aljacan on the York River.
Norfolk - The Chrysler Museum of Art collections include many works from Central and South America. Pre-Columbian items include delightful clay objects, depicting people from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama.
Norfolk -Hampton Roads Naval Museum in Nauticus, The National Maritime Center, features exhibits on the Spanish-American War. The U.S.S. Wisconsin battleship is berthed here, too. The first U.S. Admiral was Hispanic David Glasgow Farragut who was stationed at Norfolk Naval "Damn the torpedos! Full speed ahead!"
Yorktown -Yorktown National Battlefield Park showcases the events and people who contributed to this final battleground of the Revolutionary War. For example, King Carlos III of Spain and Spanish Louisiana Territory Governors don Luis de Urzaga and don Bernardo de Gálvez sent millions of pounds, weapons and medical supplies to the colonists, which helped win American independence from British Rule.
Central & Geneaology
Charlottesville - The University of Virginia is home to the Jorge Luis Borges Collection as well as first printings of the great chronicles by Columbus, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca and other Spanish explorers. In the Bayley Art Museum, see Pre-Columbian art, West Mexican tomb figures, Maya pots and an incense burner dated 500-650 A.D. The Bolívar Network is an organization of UVA alumni of Latin American birth, origin and/or affinity.
Richmond - The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is home to original works by Pablo Picasso and Francisco de Goya.
Richmond - If geneaology of your Hispanic roots is your passion, a visit to the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and the Virginia Geneaology Society are among the best resources in the commonwealth!
Southern Virginia Art & Design
Chase City -MacCallum More Museum & Gardens features some Spanish and Mexican artworks, such as a Grenada fountain, an archway, various columns, urns and a Moorish Cloister.
Chincoteague Island - See the wild ponies at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. These ponies are descendants of Arabians from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon in the 1500s. It is believed that the horses swam to the island, where they could only eat the salt marsh's coarse cord grasses and seaweed and drink the sea water. The next generation of horses were stunted in growth but extremely hardy!
Today's Hispanics in Northern Virginia
Arlington County - More Hispanics live here than anywhere else in Virginia. The population is 20-25 percent Hispanic.
Fairfax County - The second most popular place for people of Hispanic ethnic backgrounds is in this county. Both counties are near Washington, D.C.
Fredericksburg - The National Organization for Advancement of Hispanics presents its annual Hispanic Festival in October in Hurkamp Park.
Last Updated: 1/21/2020