Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month — celebrated September 15 to October 15 — has become an important time to acknowledge the contributions and culture of Hispanic and Latinx Americans. The month encompasses many key dates for Latin American countries, specifically the declaration of independence from Spanish rule by Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua. This is a time for those who identify as Hispanic and/or Latinx to celebrate their unique cultural background and for others to learn and interact with these vibrant traditions and their history.
Virginia has the 15th largest population of Hispanic and Latinx peoples in the nation, at nearly 800,000. There are more than 6,000 Hispanic and Latinx-owned businesses within Virginia. If you are looking for ways to celebrate and participate in this cultural celebration, we invite you to check out a few of the Shenandoah Valley’s Hispanic and Latinx owned businesses in Harrisonburg, Staunton, and Roanoke.
Chicano Boy Taco
This Mexican American Taquería opened in 2015 and has been serving amazing meals ever since. Chicano Boy Taco was founded by local chef Justin Hershey who, inspired by his heritage and love for cooking, was able to create a unique spot for people to experience his take on Mexican food. The menu includes handmade tacos and mission-style burritos made with fresh ingredients.
A local favorite, Gloria’s Pupuseria is currently operating out of a food truck while rebuilding their permanent location. This restaurant dedicates itself to serving authentic Salvadoran style food, most notably their signature dish – Pupusas. Pupusas are traditional handmade corn tortillas filled with a variety of ingredients and served with curtido and salsa. Everything is prepared in house and made-to-order, and ingredients are sourced as local as possible.
Any sweet tooth would be disappointed to miss this Staunton-based shop. Magdalena Bake features a fusion of American European and South American cuisine. The bakery is owned and operated by Alba Wright, a Uruguayan entrepreneur whose passion for baking and cooking was influenced by her mother Magdalena. Independent and locally owned, this business specializes in cakes, pastries, and cookies with some savory options that are not to be missed.
Gonzo’s Pollo is a colorful food truck that specializes in Peruvian chicken, Pollo a la brasa. The owner, Gonzalo, was born in Peru, immigrating to the DC area with his family as a child. He turned his love for the culinary arts into a beloved restaurant, where the Peruvian spices and wood charcoal combine to make a delicious signature dish.
Cuban Burger, founded by Steve Pizarro, is a must visit, perfect for family dining and a fun night out with friends. This restaurant and cocktail bar located in the heart of Downtown Harrisonburg, serves many favorite foods with their signature burger, El Vaquero, reaching state-wide acclaim. The full bar includes handcrafted Cuban cocktails, which can be paired with fritas, tapas, or any of the other amazing dishes featured on the menu.
El Paisano Bakery
Classic Mexican pastries and cakes can be found at El Paisano Bakery, located in Downtown Harrisonburg. Bernice Rodriguez and her husband Hugo Santiago created the shop to bring these sweet treats to the Shenandoah Valley. One of their signature pastries are conchas, a sweet bread roll complete with a crunchy exterior and soft interior. Conchas are often colorful, often fluorescent pinks or earthy browns, and can be chocolate flavored as well. With a great selection of items, plenty of parking, and outdoor seating, this bakery has everything you need to sit down and enjoy.
Magnolia’s Taco & Tequila Bar
Inspired by the traditional recipes and flavors of Jalisco, Mexico, Magnolia’s Taco and Tequila Bar has been a local favorite for 4 years and counting. Co-Owners and married couple Chris and Claudia Kay opened the restaurant with a menu based off of Claudia’s hometown Jalisco, the birthplace of tequila. With over 15 types of tacos (featuring vegan and gluten-free options), and a tequila section with over 100 tequilas and mezcals, Magnolia’s creates the ambiance for a fun night out with friends.
Are you a college student looking to stay up for your next assignment? Maybe you had a long day and are just looking for a pick-me-up? Hydro Quenchers has you covered. This brand-new business is a drive through and walk-up coffee station, but it’s much more than that. Founders Jonathan and Jasmin Lopez aimed to create high energy drinks incorporated with their love of pop culture. Try the Zombie Drinks, each named after characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to satisfy the hero within all of us. These specialty drinks are also Red Bull infused, providing the perfect bolt of energy for any tired traveler.
Nuestro Comercio Latino
Many of these local Hispanic and Latinx businesses would not be as visible without the help of organizations like Roanoke-based Nuestro Comercio Latino. This organization, founded by Kat Pascal and Jimmy Delgado, was created as a place on social media for Latinos in the Roanoke Valley to share job postings and empower one another. From there, it has grown into a force that encourages minority business owners who otherwise might not have received such visibility from a wider array of audiences. Some local businesses that have been supported by Nuestro Comercio Latino include La Elegancia (a Western inspired clothing shop), La Michoacana (a snack and dessert shop), and Dream Dance & Fitness (a spot to learn new styles of dance, including cumbia, bachata, and more).
Local Colors & Local Flavors
Roanoke is also home to Local Colors, a festival that aims to celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the local community. While not Hispanic or Latinx exclusive, Local Colors does host a Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month celebration. The event includes performances, food, and educational presentations to amplify the contributions of Latinos within the Roanoke Valley. For tasty treats, Visit Tacos Rojas for daily specials or FarmBurguesa, a farm to table restaurant with a vibrant take on an American classic. La Estrella Latina and La Esquina Latina are convenience stores packed with anything you could be looking for.
For more information on Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month around the USA, please visit https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/
Banner Image: El Paisano Bakery