You may have noticed many new Latinx/Latino/Hispanic/Spanish-speaking and Spanish-serving stores, restaurants, bodegas, businesses, and cultural and musical events popping up in Central Virginia. No, you have not traveled to another state or country. You are simply seeing a large population shift and a large emergent Latinx community, primarily in Chesterfield County, Henrico County and the City of Richmond. This large community is not monolithic as it represents Latinx from many countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Honduras, and Peru, etc. etc. Each community of immigrants bring with them their own food traditions, music, dances, vocabulary and way of speaking Spanish, other indigenous languages, skills and hopes for a new cultural exchange.
Many have come to Central Virginia and the United States to start a new way of life, help families and communities back home, flee persecution, lack of opportunities and climate change. However, these emergent Latinx communities bring with them so much vibrancy, talent, energy, and knowledge. This knowledge is here for our regional leaders to access, leverage, harness and use in conjunction with our Latinx community partners to build up the region together. The Latinx community of Central Virginia is young and highly employed. “In addition to being an important part of all of Virginia’s major industries, Hispanic/ Latino immigrants are an important part of Virginia’s small business community. There are over 19,000 self-employed immigrant Hispanic and Latino Virginians. That’s more than 1 out of every 12 working Hispanic/Latino immigrants, and it’s 6 percent of all Virginia entrepreneurs (Goren and Cassidy, 2015)”. As regional leaders in our respective fields and sectors, we have strong regional prospects to work with and include Latinx leaders in our work and to advance our mutual goals.
Leadership Metro Richmond offers a unique opportunity for both community leadership development, networking and engagement. LMR’s signature program, Leadership Quest, offers an opening in having the deep conversations needed to advance these ideas and spark innovation in how we engage the Latinx community in the Public/Government sector, business, and non-profit work. LMR also offers Facilitation Training and Speaker Series. Our regional Latinx communities will continue to grow with many children being born on US soil and becoming part of a new generation of Americans. “Richmond is projected to grow to over 230,000 residents in 2020, over 240,000 in 2030, and over 250,000 in 2040. The city’s racial make-up is projected to change as well, with Hispanic becoming the largest identity group sometime in the 2030s (Church Hill People’s News, 2017). This offers both challenges and a chance to serve as leaders in our fields differently.
This is an opportune time for our LMR graduates and alumni to see where they fit in to both the mission of LMR and how to engage, serve, and uplift the regional Latinx community. Alumni, conversely, should consider the communities they live in and think about the Latinx leaders that live, study, and work there. Are there Latinx leaders that you know that would benefit from joining this LMR community? Can your organization sponsor a Latinx candidate? Can your sector benefit from creating an internship program that focuses on Latinx talent? Together we can uplift and strengthen our new American communities in a way that honors, respects, and benefits everyone.
Cristina Ramirez (’08)