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Mexican Partnership Proposed for Region

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But he figures there has to be a better way to introduce Mexicans to Richmond — and vice versa. The area's Hispanic population has grown 227 percent in the past decade, he points out. Hence, Zajur is proposing a region-to-region alliance between the Greater Richmond area and the state of Zacatecas, Mexico, as a bridge for exchanging both business and culture.



Zacatecas, the 400-year-old capital of the state in northern Mexico, has 300,000 residents. Its steeples, plazas and graceful arches are illustrated on a wall in La Siesta in a mural painted by Zajur's cousin 20 years ago. His grandfather owned a silver mine there. "It's just a gorgeous place," Zajur says.



But Richmond already maintains relationships with six sister cities: Olsztyn, Poland; Richmond Upon Thames, England; Urawa, Japan; Windhoek, Namibia; Zhengzhou, China and Uijongbu, Korea. What's the advantage to adding a whole region to the roster?



"First of all, business," Zajur says. The sister-region relationship could streamline the process of doing business abroad, he says. Once he gets funding, he plans to set up a resource center in the Hispanic Chamber's offices that would connect Hispanic workers with local companies. "These people are here because business wants them to be here," he says.



Other advantages, Zajur says, could include grants for universities here and in Zacatecas and cultural programs in public schools. The surrounding counties, as well as Richmond, would all benefit, he says.



One of his sponsors is Capital One, which is donating about $2,500 to the program. "We're just interested in building a relationship with our Hispanic community," says Madge Bush, the company's director of community affairs. "We're becoming a global corporation and this just gives us a chance to do outreach in a different way."



Zajur also hopes to raise money from a celebration on May 7, 2002, at La Siesta, which will feature officials from Richmond and Zacatecas, as well as mariachi bands and Mexican food. It'll take about $30,000, he says, to really get the program started.



"[Mexicans] want to be part of the community," Zajur says, "and I want people to open doors to them."



— MELISSA SCOTT SINCLAIR





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