To build economic bridges between Hispanic businesses and the community at large in order to create, promote, and enhance business opportunities for its members and partners.
In 1972 the now CEO of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, Michel Zajur, opened one of the first Mexican Cuisine Family restaurants “La Siesta” in the Greater Richmond Area’s Southside. Virginia families delighted in their first glimpses of the Hispanic culture and its passion for food, family, celebration, and ingenuity. Many area residents respond to the restaurant’s mention with smiles when they reflect on trips to the kitchen as children to see how fried ice cream was made. It is said in Latin American culture that food is best prepared with love. Local families left with full bellies and warm impressions about this newly emerging community in their area.
Michel and his wife Lisa Zajur quickly identified the benefits of educating local children about learning Spanish as a second language through a colorful and interactive program they coined “La Siesta Town”. Students from counties throughout Virginia were bussed to the restaurant where they took “airplane” rides through Latin America experiencing dance, language, and culture.
As La Siesta was becoming a cultural information station in the community, it was also growing into an active hub for area Latinos to convene and discuss matters facing their expanding community. Issues such as language barriers, employment and education were repeated themes in discussions. A need was rapidly developing bringing about the birth of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber and Foundation.