9 Stories from the El Centro de la Raza Community

El Centro de la Raza began in 1972. Since then, we have continued to serve as a voice and hub for the Latino community and a support system for communities of color in Seattle. We have grown quite a bit since then, but we keep the same values. Our community means everything to us and we continue to be grateful for the community members who use our services and trust us as they go through both difficult and exciting parts of their live. 2020 was especially difficult for many in our community and we saw even more need for our services. If you are interested in supporting our organization and the services we offer the community, please click the donate button on the top right of our site. A recurring or one-time donation is always appreciated and an valued action. Here are some stories from this last year that we hope will give you a picture of our familia and the work that we do.  


People at El Centro de la Raza Care about us, says Javier*, 60, who has been joining us during our Senior lunches since September 2020, after some friends told him about it. He says that the free hot lunch five days a week has helped him emotionally through difficult times. He made a point to mention the care Flor, one of the coordinators of our lunch program, gives to the community. Javier feels the program is like a blessing to him. 

*Name has been changed for privacy

Image Description: Senior in blue sweater smiling in front of El Centro de la Raza building

Hilda & Lourdes

Early on in the pandemic, our Business Opportunity Center staff contacted Sabor Delicioso co-owners, Hilda and Lourdes, with good news to share. Hilda and Lourdes breathed a sigh of relief: the City of Seattle approved their small business to receive a total of $10,000 in funding and mitigate the loss of their income caused by COVID-19. With that money, they: 

  • Paid for food permits and licenses 
  • Paid rent, utilities, and transportation 
  • Recouped their loss in revenue from catering and other events 

Our BOC staff helped Hilda and Lourdes by providing hours of assistance over a conference call to translate and offer guidance in applying for the City’s Small Business Stabilization Fund. El Centro de la Raza’s Business Opportunity Center continues to help small businesses owners with applying to grants and loans. Support Sabor Delicioso and our other food vendors by visiting our plaza. You can find our food vendor schedule here.

Image Description: Photo of Hilda & Lourdes standing in front of their food cart smiling and laughing


Adrian* worked two jobs to meet his family’s needs. Due to the pandemic, he lost one of his jobs and his family of five was significantly impacted. He lost his second job after the Stay Home Stay Healthy Order’s extension. 

Adrian was increasingly stressed and concerned about their situation. He had to somehow make rent, in addition to buying groceries and paying for utilities. Your support of our Emergency Response Fund made it possible to provide Adrian’s family with food and rental assistance. He said, “Mi vida ha cambiado drásticamente por la mejor.” (English translation: “My life has changed drastically for the better.”) 

Adrian feels blessed that El Centro de la Raza understands and meets the community’s needs. El Centro de la Raza is also providing Adrian’s eldest son a laptop so that he can continue his education from home. 

*Name has been changed for privacy

Photo of man in front of El Centro de la Raza


Since March 2020, El Centro de la Raza has been partnering with the Schultz Family Foundation to distribute funding to restaurant workers impacted by the pandemic through The Plate Fund. The Plate Fund is a one-time funding source of $500 Visa gift card that can be utilized in any store to purchases necessities like food or even for things like online payments for utility bills or rent. During the pandemic, the restaurant industry was incredibly unstable due to the constant closing and reopening of businesses due to the changing restrictions and phases. Many restaurant workers lost income due to the businesses shutting down, to severe reductions in hours, or even contracting COVID-19 forcing them to take time off work. The pandemic has shown us how difficult it is to navigate resource, however, many restaurant workers also had to deal with the language barrier that they faced when they tried to find any assistance or aid. 

One participant, in particular, called El Centro de la Raza and told staff that they were rejected from many other organizations and were in desperate need of support. This participant, Martin Sanchez*, is a 70-year-old man who could not work as a result of his age and diabetes, making him at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. His daughter was also laid off from Mcdonald’s in early March and had not been able to find work since then. Both father and daughter had exhausted the last of their savings and sold their car for additional income but were in dire need of financial support as they had medical expenses and housing and food expenses. Due to the language barrier, technology barrier, and limited ability to read or write, the family had difficulties accessing relief resources. Our staff at El Centro de La Raza was able to work with them to get Martin’s daughter qualified to receive a $500 Visa gift card to the Plate Fund and referred them to receive rental assistance as well. 

*Name has been changed for privacy

Image Description: Photo of Elizabeth in front of computer


Elizabeth, originally from Colombia, started her tax services business United Enterprise Tax Services 10 years ago. With the help of the Business Opportunity Center (BOC) of the Center de la Raza, she was approved funding for her business under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This government aid program provides funding to businesses impacted by the COVID-19. Elizabeth happily continues her business operations and serves her community due to these funds. For her services, please contact Elizabeth via email: uetaxes@gmail.com

“It is great labor and excellent work that you [BOC] and el Centro de la Raza are doing for our community. May God bless you! 

Elizabeth, originalmente de Colombia, comenzó su negocio de contabilidad e impuestos United Enterprises Tax Services hace 10 años. Con la asesoría del Centro de Oportunidad de Negocios del Centro de la Raza, fue aprobada para recibir fondos de ayuda empresaria por parte del Programa de Protección de Pago (PPP). El programa gubernamental proporciona fondos a empresas impactadas por COVID-19. Elizabeth felizmente continua su negocio y sirviendo su comunidad con la ayuda de los fondos. Para sus servicios, pueden contactar a Elizabeth por correo electrónico: uetaxes@gmail.com

“De verdad es una maravillosa labor y un excelente trabajo el que usted y el Centro de la Raza están realizando ayudando a la comunidad. ¡Que Dios les bendiga! 


Sandra*, who emigrated from Venezuela 3 years ago, says she approached El Centro de la Raza seeking information about resources that will help me succeed as I face the reality of living in a new country. Sandra enrolled in the Business Launch and Grow and the First Time Homebuyers webinar, both trainings offered by our Business Opportunity Center. She says that she was pleased by the level of commitment, clarity, and knowledge of her instructors. She is now that every training that El Centro de la Raza provides leaves a seed of knowledge and wanting to continue learning and growing. She emphasizes the value of finding people to guide you when you are adjusting to a new language, culture, and education. Since joining these trainings, she has been sharing about the opportunities El Centro de la Raza provides to her circle of friends.

*Name has been changed for privacy

Our José Martí Child Development Center

Our teacher at José Martí Child Development Center reads a story in Spanish for the children who are following along from their homes. Click to watch how we are engaging young children at this time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eazipYwkkBI.

It has been amazing that José Martí Child Development Center has continued its work through the pandemic. In August we celebrated our brilliant youth graduates with Pizza, Cupcakes, gifts, and most importantly, their diploma!

Totem After School Program

On March 17, 8 middle school youth from the Totem After School Program attended Latino Legislative Day Leadership workshops. To their surprise, the workshops were completely led by high school youth. Among the topics discussed were Anti – Blackness in Latinx communities, mental health, and environmental justice. As youth left the workshop they shared with the facilitators, “I learned A LOT today, I’m glad I was here”. During reflections the next day in the after school program, youth wanted to know how they could get to that level, “How do I facilitate a workshop like them when I grow up?” youth were reassured, they are already capable and on track to lead their own workshops. The lessons offered during the cultural enrichment segment are providing youth a social justice framework. 

Image Description: Totem after school participants with El Centro de la Raza sign.

Through an interdepartmental partnership, youth from the Plaza Roberto Maestas After School and FW Totem After School Program were invited to submitted entries to the Scholastics, “Vaping is Not My Thing” contest. To enter the contest participants had to create an infographic poster targeted to their peers and informing them of the dangers of vaping. Two youth of the Plaza Roberto Maestas After School program were able to submit entries. Through the process, both scholars developed their own stance to say no to vaping and encourage their peers to also steer away from the dangers of vaping. We are very proud of them both! Here are is one of our scholar’s entries: 

Image Description: Photo of student project poster with headline Vaping is Not Cool


Piedro*, 67, who says he found out about El Centro de la Raza’s senior lunch program, has been joining us for hot lunch in September. He says he is happy to part of the community that is present for lunch. Piedro also mentioned how coming to the lunch program has helped him with other resources, most notably support with signing up and getting his COVID-19 vaccination. Piedro has enjoyed the other activities the lunch program has for seniors during the 11a-1p M-F schedule, including dancing and painting activities. El Centro de la Raza offers 43 programs and continues to be a resource hub for the community.  

*Name has been changed for privacy

April Noticias and Articles Relevant to Our Community

Vendor Food Schedule

Nominate or self-nominate community members for El Centro de la Raza’s Felipe Maestas Legacy Award. 

Each year at our Building the Beloved Community Gala, we celebrate two individuals in the community who exemplify Building the Beloved spirit through multi-racial unity and work to eliminate poverty, racism, and social inequity, with a Felipe Maestas Legacy Award. We will celebrate our 2021 awardees with a humble $1,000 gift in their name to an organization of their choice and recognize each awardee at our 2021 Building the Beloved Gala on October 2nd. 

Meet our past nominees here

Nominate a community member or self-nominate by May 31st, 2021, here

May Day Fest streaming on May 1st at 6p

Register for the event, here.

Upcoming Events in the Community

Nia Tero & SIFF’s cINeDIGENOUS showcase

Nia Tero and Seattle International Film Festival’s cINeDIGENOUS showcase

This program focuses on global Indigenous filmmakers sharing Indigenous stories and culture. Centering Indigenous art and artists amplifies voices and perspectives that are essential to our global well-being. cINeDIGENOUS is curated and presented in partnership with Nia Tero.

Articles of Interest

Biden & Treasury Secretary Yellen; Latinos will Help with COVID Recovery

An Overview perspective of the U.S / Mexico Border

White House Releases State-by-State Fact Sheets to Highlight Nationwide Need for the American Jobs Plan

Pew: 5% of 2019 US Black Population Identifies as Afro-Latino

Study indicates the Jan. 6 riots were motivated by racism and white resentment, not ‘election theft’

CDC Director Says Racism Is ‘serious public health threat’

Who Are The Insurrectionists and Where Did They Come From?

On Tuesday, March 30th Washington State Senate Voted to Ban For-Profit Prisons

What WA can learn from Native communities’ vaccination plan

El Centro de la Raza’s Continues Community Support with Vaccine Clinic at Federal Way Offices

Earlier this month, El Centro de la Raza hosted another vaccine clinic, this time at our Federal Way offices. We are excited to reopen our Federal Way offices soon, but until then, we are happy that we can have a vaccine clinic on site and continue to show the support we hope to provide the LatinX and all communities in Federal Way. To find your phase, you can go here. Our clinics are equipped with translators, doctors, and volunteers to support with any questions or concerns. It’s important for everyone to get the vaccine when it is their phase to protect our community and loved ones. Jay Inslee has announced that by April 15th everyone in Washington above the age of 16 will be eligible for the vaccine.

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Support Us By Taking These Acciónes: April

Support Bill HB 1550

We encourage our fellow community members to show their support/importance of bill HB 1550 by writing an email to Rep Frame, Washington State Legislature – Rep Frame, or other finance committee members, Finance Committee Members and Staff (wa.gov).

Read testimony from El Centro de la Raza staff to Rep Frame and to Rep Pollet. Check in on the bill’s progress here.

With the COVID pandemic starting to be on the dismay, schools will soon begin to open at full capacity. What does this mean for parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and guardians of children? Children can easily be peer pressured to engage in new acts that may not be the best choice, such as smoking/vaping. It is no secret that there is a growing vaping pandemic amongst youth. One in three high school students in Washington reported vaping in the last month, and this number is on the rise! It is a delicate time in their lives, as we know children are very impressionable, especially during adolescence. Children could get a hold of money to buy these products and figure out how to purchase them if they become addicted and want them. What is a step in deterring our youth from purchasing these products aside from cessation/prevention education? Imposing a higher tax rate on these products could make them more expensive and more difficult for youth to possess the funds to purchase.

There is a current house bill in the legislative session proposed to help prevent youth smoking/vaping use. The proposed bill is HB1550, Washington State Legislature – HB 1550 Info, and offers an excise tax that would be a massive resource in our efforts for Nicotine prevention & cessation. The taxed items would be tobacco vape products that have become popular amongst youth/young adult usage. The taxes collected from this bill would adequately fund public health by directing all money collected to go towards nicotine and substance use prevention, cessation, enforcement, education, and foundational public health services.

At El Centro de la Raza, we continue to reach out to our LatinX community members to raise awareness about tobacco & vaping and the effects these products are having amongst our community members. We have developed youth prevention power-point presentations and collaborated with Latin Youth organizations to spread our tobacco-free message and why. These presentations and information are given in both Spanish & English to reach as many members of our LatinX community as possible in our culturally related efforts to fight against tobacco use & addiction amongst youth and young adults. Our culturally related efforts are reflected in our collaborated work by attending legislative meetings related to youth tobacco use, prevention, and constant training to keep our skillset up to date in youth tobacco prevention. The money collected from taxes would help organizations like El Centro de la Raza continue to succeed in their fight for tobacco cessation/prevention.

As a parent of two middle school-aged boys, I cannot stress the importance of education, cessation, and prevention resources on Nicotine, whether it is vaped or smoked. I do not believe there is a parent, aunt, uncle, or grandparent out there that wants their loved one to become addicted to a substance, let alone one that we know is the leading cause of preventable death in the world!

King County Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program Proposal for Allocating Rent Assistance Funds to BIPOC Community Based Organizations

King County received approximately $145M in federal funds to provide rent assistance to very low-income households (below 50% area median income) who are adversely impacted by COVID and at high risk for eviction. In response to feedback from BIPOC leaders in King County, King County is adjusting the Eviction Prevention and Rent Assistance Program (EPRAP) to provide funding to Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to support their communities. To do this effectively, DCHS will rely on the guidance and expertise of larger BIPOC CBO’s to support investing and building capacity in smaller organizations.


· In 2021, King County (KC) will allocate approximately $30-45 million in rent assistance funds to CBOs to support BIPOC communities. Due to the County budget process, this may occur through multiple funding rounds.

· Using a “hub and spoke” model, KC will provide grants of approximately $3 million dollars to 10-15 primary “hub” organizations. Per federal requirement, of this money, $2.7M could be used for rent assistance; $300K for administrative and operations costs.

· Hub agencies then contract with smaller “spoke” organizations to provide support to their communities.

· All hub and spoke organizations will need to comply with federal requirements.

· King County will support the hub organizations with training, learning circles, and ongoing technical assistance to ensure that federal program requirements are met. The hub agencies would in turn support the smaller spoke agencies in meeting these requirements.

· There may be a possibility of expanding the program if additional funding is allocated to King County later this year.

Next Steps

· Partner with BIPOC leaders to refine model.

· Through KC required procurement process, identify 10-15 organizations with the capacity to serve as hub agencies.

· Create a survey that potential hub organizations can use to guage interest and service capacity of spoke organizations.

· Accept applications from hub agencies detailing plans for contracting with spoke agencies and meeting federal requirements.

· Allocate funds

Working Washington’s Pay Up Campaign

Gig companies have been expanding rapidly throughout the pandemic. At the same time as they’re making their executives into billionaires, they’re getting away with paying as little as $2 a job to the people who do the work. Here’s 3 things you can do to support Working Washington’s Pay Up Campaign and help raise pay for tens of thousands of people in our city:

  • Build the coalition: Share our sign on with other people and organizations. (Need more information? Let me know! Happy to share more detail about the policies we’re fighting for!)
  • Spread the word: Share our worker survey with any delivery drivers & other gig workers you may know to help us make sure the policies we’re advancing are grounded in workers’ needs.
  • Help make gig workers a priority at City Hall: Send a quick personal message to your city councilmembers and the mayor, letting them know that raising pay in the gig economy is a priority! 

Essential Workers Graphic

To achieve the pandemic recovery we ALL want to see, we must ensure that everyone is included in it. That means ensuring that we stabilize our workforce by protecting immigrants serving as essential workers and providing them with an earned path to citizenship. We must honor and protect those who have spent so much effort protecting us by keeping our hospitals running, stacking our grocery shelves, and cleaning our homes and offices.

We call on the Biden administration to commit to including a pathway to citizenship for essential immigration workers in the president’s Build Back Better recovery package.

Let’s truly “build back better” by stabilizing our workforce and families.

Health care should be available to all, regardless of immigration status.

Access to affordable health care is particularly crucial now, as underlying inequities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Immigrants and communities of color are disproportionately contracting, hospitalized for, and dying from COVID-19.

Urge your lawmaker to ensure the state budget includes funding for health care services for uninsured and underinsured people regardless of immigration status

National Volunteer Week is April 18-24, 2021!!!

To recognize this special time, we at El Centro de la Raza would like to take a moment to thank and recognize our volunteers. Volunteers assist with a variety of essential tasks that help our agency run smoothly, ranging from distributing food and tutoring to making masks, providing translation services, special event assistance and more. Our organization would be unable to provide 43 programs and services to the community without them!

During the first seven years of its existence, El Centro de la Raza was completely volunteer-run. Volunteerism was at the heart of our mission from the very beginning, and our success over the past 48+ years reminds us that we would not be where we are today without their generous support. On behalf of everyone at El Centro de la Raza, we are sending mil gracias to our volunteers! 

If you would like to learn more about how to volunteer at El Centro, email volunteer@elcentrodelaraza.org.

Volunteers call participants to offer Voter Registration information as part of our Expedia Days of Caring event in October
A volunteer Makes masks at her home