Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia: A Book Review

Cover of book Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia. Collage of 5 photos from Latinx culture and title.

In the interest of Hispanic Heritage month, I picked up several books from the Jordan-Newby library in Norfolk. I recently started teaching the GED class at Maury High, and I wanted to incorporate engaging reading materials to improve students’ literacy. One of the books I picked up was Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia, by Christine Stoddard. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been fairly good for learning a bit more about the Latinx/Hispanic* history and current presence in Virginia.

*more about the term Latinx/Hispanic here and here.

Book cover with collage of photos and title Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia
Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia, by Christine Stoddard

Highlights include: Spain’s attempts at colonization in Virginia in the late 1500’s, an overview of the most common holidays celebrated in Virginia,education and immigration issues, the Mixtec Indians, and media. I was interested to learn that there was a significant Salvadoran immigration.

I find that the book is helpful for bringing many issues to the forefront but there are caveats. Several of the photos use do not actually center Latinx/Hispanic community and culture but are White-generic or Eurocentric. The book is very Catholic focused, almost seeming to be produced by the Church but nothing in the author’s biography or the History Press site indicates that to be the case. It could be simply that many of the colonial missions and public institutions across the Americas are Catholic, including many community and educational outreach programs. Or that approximately half of the Latinx/Hispanic demographic identify as Catholic. Finally, the author uses the term racist and illustrates systemic inequities without actually addressing any of them directly. 

I would recommend this as a book to read and study with a group or as an educator. There are many opportunities to learn about the diversity within the Latinx/Hispanic community and the challenges that are currently faced. I see it as a learning tool and a prompt to learn more about the community here in Hampton Roads. 

Please share your thoughts and any resources, events, or images in the comments.

Photo 1: Just Klownin Virginia Car Club members in 4th of July parade – Lincoln Continental Mark VI with hydraulics. By Jarek Tuszyński / CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16739738

Photo 2: Performers from the Latin Ballet of Virginia dance during the National Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Oct. 4, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland) https://www.jble.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1654965/jble-celebrates-national-hispanic-heritage-month/ 

Photo 3: Michel Zajur, founder Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce founder, presents a book to U.S. Army Col. Rick Zampelli, 128th Aviation Brigade commander, during the National Hispanic Heritage Month ceremony at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia., Oct. 4, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa J. Cleveland) https://www.jble.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1654965/jble-celebrates-national-hispanic-heritage-month/ 

Photo 4: DAHLGREN, Va. (Sept. 28, 2017) – Isha Renta, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist, dances to Bomba music played by Semilla Cultural (Cultural Seed) volunteers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) sponsored Hispanic Heritage Observance. The performers on stage are NSWCDD scientists and engineers. Renta founded the Semilla Cultural nonprofit organization to cultivate a community that embraces diversity by educating, promoting and disseminating Puerto Rican culture and traditions. U.S. Navy photo by Dan Eberly/Released
https://www.doncio.navy.mil/CHIPS/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=9577


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