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In 1999, Virginia Governor James Gilmore embarked on a thirteen-day trade mission to South America that included Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, key trade and commerce partners of the commonwealth going into the 21st century. One of Gilmore’s main objectives on this trip was to set up a trade office in Sao Paolo, Brazil, an addition to the roster of Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s global branches. This 1999 expedition, with its economic and diplomatic interest in Latin America, is an example of the commonwealth’s growing relationship with an equally growing Latin American presence both within and outside the commonwealth’s borders. It is an example of the growing outreach to the Latinx community as well. Between 1990 and 2000 nationally, the population grew by more than 50 percent and doubled in the commonwealth.1 The records from the various Secretariats of the Governor’s Cabinet as well as from the Governor’s Office collections evince these budding connections. Housed in the shelves of the Library of Virginia, the boxes that comprise these collections are currently continuously processed and made available by our archivists. Not only are these some of the more recent and modern collections, but given their diversity in both content and material form, they are a rich, valuable source for a wide array of research.

Looking over Virginia’s state records, there is a marked, significant progress from a noticeable silence of a formal relationship, with an archival presence primarily by way of constituent correspondence from public interest groups.2 Notwithstanding, these records demonstrate an important presence of a decades-long economic relationship with Latin America. Some of the notable documents and records found in State Government collections include memoranda of understanding for partnerships, relationships, marketing drives, and even fact sheets about cultural idiosyncrasies from these regions. These relationships will only continue to blossom because the ever growing and changing demographics of Virginia, with a larger Latinx presence. Attention and care to the concerns and needs of this constituency will only continue to grow as the records from the various state agencies that comprise the executive branch that arrive at the Library of Virginia archives for processing.

Chilean dignitaries meet with Gov. Gilmore at the Santiago Sheraton in Chile, May 1999.

Records Governor James S. Gilmore, Series V. Press Office: Photographs, Accession #39658, 1998-2001, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

As archivists, we are proud to continue to do the work to make these records available to the public for research and learning, demonstrating the ever-changing face of a new Virginia that includes everyone’s history.

As one can imagine, the documentary evidence of the Executive Branch’s relationship with the transnational Latin American world reflects the demographic growth of Latinos in Virginia. Mark R. Warner’s gubernatorial administration from 2002 to 2006 was a significant juncture in this development. This was one of the first administrations to officially regard the community in a significant manner. With Executive Order 57, Warner created the Virginia Latino Advisory Commission in 2003 to provide future administrations with information about the growing community. Economic development with the transnational community spans further back than Warner’s watershed initiatives.3

Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month Certification of Recognition, 2008.

Records of the Latino Liaison, Governor Timothy M. Kaine, 2004-2009, Accession #44808, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia

As far back as the historic Wilder administration, Virginia’s government was taking notice of the Latin American community, particularly economically. Reports on Latin America and the Caribbean by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership are found in collections such as the Records of the Secretary of Economic Development, 1986-1993 (Accession 34595). Sixteen years later, by Governor Tim Kaine’s administration, these studies had led to actual partnerships and presence via economic offices like the ones that opened this blog. Another example of even further progress with the Latin American community are the various trips to South and Central America documented in the Records of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade in 2014 under Governor McAuliffe (Accession 52175).

A specific example of the progress made with Latin America found in this collection is the Secretary of Commerce and Trade’s Trip to Cuba in 2017, part of the Engage Cuba initiative during Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration. During this period, the higher education agreement between VCU and University of Havana was a milestone for not just the state, but also the country after decades of severed economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties.

Governor Warner’s administration was also instrumental in this initiative’s history. In 2002, he signed a million-dollar agriculture export deal with Cuba for the first time in 40 years, kicking off a period where the commonwealth became a leading supplier of agricultural products to Cuba. U.S. senators from Virginia, Warner and Tim Kaine (both previously governors), would go on to co-sign the Agricultural Export Expansion Act in 2019, removing restrictions on private financing for the export of agricultural commodities to Cuba, addressing historically restrictive policies. Together, they also signed the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act to lift the tourist travel ban on Cuba during this time. Along with the Records of Kaine’s Latino Liaison (Accession 44808), these are but some of the bits of Latinx history documented in the Governor and Secretariat collections, some of the latest fully processed collections recently made available by the state records collections staff.

Footnotes

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, The Hispanic Population: Census 2000 Brief, by Betsy Guzmán, Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2001, https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/2000/briefs/c2kbr01-03.pdf (accessed October 1, 2022).

[2] Correspondence and Subject Files of the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, 1970-1997, Accession #33719, Library of Virginia

[3]  Roger Christman, “Antiguo Dominio: The Virginia Latino Advisory Board,” The Uncommonwealth (blog), September 13, 2017, https://uncommonwealth.virginiamemory.com/blog/2017/09/13/antiguo-dominio-the-virginia-latino-advisory-board/

Header Image Citation

Unknown Artisan in his workshop in Santiago, Chile, May 1999, Records Governor James S. Gilmore, Series V. Press Office: Photographs, Accession #39658, 1998-2001, State government records collection, The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Va. 23219.

Alan Arellano

State Records Archivist

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