Chicana por mi Raza

Virginia Gomez Oviedo

National Business Woman of the Year, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Chicago Women's Hall of Fame
“I think one of the biggest things is that they need to be unafraid, unafraid to look at things differently than how they’ve been told to look at things, whether it’s in school, even at home…do not be afraid, you’re going to probably take some criticism. You won’t think you know how to do it, but you’ll learn. It’s a fun path, living is fun.”

Virginia Gomez Oviedo was born in 1945 on the Southeast side of Chicago. Her family first lived in the Maxwell Street area, a diverse port of entry for many of Chicago’s immigrants.  When her family moved to the South Shore neighborhood, however, her community and school were not very diverse and the family faced racism.  Facing this discrimination at a very young age fostered her political consciousness and activism. Virginia was particularly inspired by her mother, Suzie, who exposed her to activism and standing up to discrimination first hand.  Suzie was one of the first Hispanic precinct captains in the 7th Ward in the early 1950’s and served in the post for over 30 years. Suzie also served her community as one of the founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Chicago.

Virginia’s own activism began when she was about 14 years old, when she became a member of the Junior LULAC. Despite her young age, she traveled to different states to attend events, with her mother’s support. She graduated from James H. Bowen High School on Chicago’s South Side in 1962. 

One of Virginia’s first jobs involved working with the department of corrections as a parole agent for the adult division, and later with the junior division. She worked for several years helping ex-offenders and attempting to improve the recidivism rate of prisons. After her time spent in the department of corrections, Virginia began her job in the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) as a contract compliance officer. Her task was to represent the children of different wards in the city and purchase services that would benefit them. While she held this position, Virginia also raised two boys and began her college career at Northeastern University at the age of 27.

In 1980, Virginia and her husband Ernest Ojeda were the first Latinos to open a McDonald’s restaurant in the Chicagoland area.  Since then, Virginia has acquired two more McDonald’s locations in the city.

Being engaged in the community is important to Virginia, and particularly encouraging the development of Latina business owners and professionals.  She served as the president of the Mexican American Business and Professional Women's organization for several years.  She was also the first woman chair at the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce and sits on several boards such as WTTW Chicago, the McDonald’s Hispanic Owners of Chicagoland (former president), and the Ounce of Prevention Fund.

Some of her significant awards include: being named in the 10% of restaurant operators nationwide in 2003; her induction into the Women’s Hall of Fame in Chicago; and being named National Business Woman of the Year by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.