Sunday, September 15th through Tuesday, October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month across the U.S. September 15 of every year is the initial day for the national celebration as it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
This year, Richmond will be the home of the first-ever Viva RVA!, a multi-event Hispanic Heritage Month celebration honoring Virginia’s Latinx LGBTQ+ community. A driving force behind this effort is local design and marketing specialist Fernando Luis Rodriguez. We asked Fernando to share insight into his work and the inspiration behind Viva RVA!
How did the idea for Viva RVA! come about?
For the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Diversity Richmond. My design and marketing firm, One Man Design, helped elevate the Black and Bold Awards and promote more of their signature events. Diversity Richmond asked me to spearhead an event to engage both the Latinx and LGBTQ communities in Richmond. I immediately said, “YES!” and developed the name, logo and events that would become Viva RVA!. Viva is a common word in Spanish used to express goodwill or approval and it embodies the spirit of the event.
What do you hope to accomplish with Viva RVA!?
The goal is simple – to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and honor the contributions of Virginia’s LGBTQ+ Latinx people, community and culture. I want people to feel proud about their heritage and celebrate who they decide to love. They say it takes a village to raise a child. This is true for impactful events such as Viva RVA! This could not be possible without the help of our Viva RVA! Community Partners: Laughing Gull Foundation, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Richmond’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, Virginia Hispanic Foundation, Virginia Pride, Side-By-Side, Latino Link Advisors, VCU Division of Inclusive Excellence and the University of Richmond.
What’s the best way to support Viva RVA! as an Ally, for those not a member of the LGBTQ+ Latinx community?
Viva RVA! is a free, family- friendly event for everyone who wants to support our community and culture. There is so much Diversity and intersectionality within the Latinx community, and we want to honor and celebrate that. We hope you’ll visit our Viva RVA! Facebook event and click “going,” then get your FREE passes at Eventbrite today! Put on your dancing shoes and bring your friends and family to our events and music festival.
What exactly are the events scheduled for Viva RVA!?
Bill Harrison, President of Diversity Richmond, asked me to organize one event. My response was: “Why not have three instead?” Music and food are tangible expressions of the Latino culture. With this in mind I developed three signature events:
A Hispanic Community Reception will be held Saturday, September 21st at Libbie Mill County Public Library. The reception will be the perfect venue to bring together Richmond’s movers and shakers among the Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities. We will have networking opportunities, special presentations and the inaugural Latinx LGBTQ Leadership Award. Our guest speaker will be author Joe Kutchera. He is the founder of Latino Link Advisors and has been featured on ABC News, Advertising Age, CNN en Español and Telemundo.
VA PrideFest is expected to attract 30,000 people this year and we will be there to say “Hola!” to each and everyone. Throughout the day, the Viva RVA! Booth will offer salsa lessons by Angel Rodríguez a.k.a. The Salsa Guy and host performances by Puerto Rican folkloric dancers. Mark your calendars for September 28 and look for our booth on Brown’s Island near the Youth Pride Village.
We will end the celebrations with a BANG! The Hispanic Music Festival will kick off at 11:30 am on October 5th. This free, family-friendly event will offer authentic Latino cuisine, food trucks, exhibits, prizes and live performances by Quatro Na Bossa (Brazilian Jazz), Kadencia (Puerto Rican Bomba y Plena) and free dance lessons by Angel Rodríguez a.k.a. The Salsa Guy. The music festival will take place at Diversity Richmond, rain or shine.
When you’re not the clock, where are your favorite places to eat, drink and explore Virginia?
One of my favorite places is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I love to go there to get my creative juices flowing, see their traveling exhibitions and admire their permanent collection. I am not an outdoorsman, but I love staying at Shenandoah National Park. My favorite roof top bar is Dogtown Brewing Co. and I could eat wings and tacos from ASADO every single day.
Fernando L. Rodríguez was born in Japan, grew up in Puerto Rico and now lives in Virginia. Aside from Fernando’s community work, he’s led Hispanic marketing campaigns for Ford, PhRMA and The Lincoln Motor Company. He is the proud father of Nina, Paola and Daniela and lives in Richmond with his partner and his Yorkie, Tyler.
Wirt Confroy is Director of Business Development for Virginia Tourism Corporation