Don’t wait until election day! Vote today. Go to VoteWA.gov for information about voting center and ballot drop box locations near you.

We strongly encourage you to vote YES for Prop One, The Seattle Housing Levy, to help ensure affordable housing options for our community’s most vulnerable members. Your support can make a significant difference in addressing housing affordability in Seattle. Learn more here.

How Vaping Harms Students’ Mental Health: Tips For Parents and Educators

Beginning a new school year can be stressful for students. However, it’s important to know that vapes, like cigarettes, can negatively impact students’ physical and mental health. Parents, teachers, mentors, and school administrators can offer guidance and tools to help students make informed decisions. What can parents, teachers, influential adults, and school administrators do? Let more here.

Latino Democratic Caucus Statement on Palmer v Hobbs Voting Rights Act Decision

OLYMPIA – On August 10, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled in favor of Latino voters living in Central Washington in Palmer v Hobbs, finding that Washington’s legislative map violates the federal Voting Rights Act. The court concluded that the districts drawn in the Yakima Valley dilute the Latino vote and prevent the Latino community from electing representatives of their choice. The bicameral Latino Democratic Caucus released the following statement in response:

“We, the members of the Washington State Latino Democratic Caucus, strongly support creating fair and just electoral maps to ensure that the voices of the Latino community are heard.

“The dilution of Latino votes is not new in Washington State. In 2018, the Legislature passed the Washington Voting Rights Act to provide a remedy for the known problem of voter dilution in municipalities and counties. This year, the Legislature passed the Washington Voting Rights Act (WVRA) 2.0, to strengthen and improve the WVRA by making it easier for communities of interest to bring voter dilution claims and to allow plaintiffs to recover costs when a remedy is implemented.

“Latino voters from the Yakima Valley won enfranchisement for their community in court, and we support their right to propose their preferred remedy directly to the court. The bipartisan Redistricting Commission failed to draw a legislative map that complied with the federal VRA. We support voters seeking justice in a forum where it has already been achieved, devoid of partisanship and gamesmanship. We do not support reconvening the Redistricting Commission.

“We are committed to fair representation in our government at every level. The Latino community deserve the opportunity to elect leaders of its choice to the state Legislature. To have a truly representative democracy voters must be able to exercise their rights in a just system.” Learn more here.

Cuentos From Our Programs and Community: August 2023

Exciting Food News Alert! Introducing La Pisca with Dulce Santos at Plaza Roberto Maestas!

Craving some delicious bites? We’ve got you covered with mouthwatering Elote, Esquites, and Toste-esquites, all for just $7 each!

Operating Hours: 12PM – 7PM

Days: Tuesday – Saturday

But wait, there’s more! La Pisca isn’t just any food business – it’s proudly presented by El Centro de la Raza – Business Opportunity Center (BOC). We’re all about supporting local ventures and bringing you flavors that’ll make your taste buds dance. 

Come on down and savor the flavors of La Pisca!

Free Legal Clinic

Providing free legal assistance can level the playing field for clients who aren’t able to pay for capable consultations. 

Our Free Legal Clinic in August assisted 50+ people and provided approximately $10,000 worth of pro bono services to our community. A special thank you to the volunteer attorneys and translators.  

Receive free, limited advice at our next clinic, on September 13.

Si Se Puede Academy

Our Si Se Puede Academy has 41 scholars, 18-21 years old in King County, enrolled in our year-round General Education Development (GED) program. Three have officially graduated, with more anticipated by the end of August 2023.  Jovens gain access to mentors that look like them, prepare for high paying careers, experience culturally focused field trips and build a connection with nature, porque aqui… ¡Si Se Puede! 

Take a look at the jovens enjoying a field trip at el lago!

TAKE ACTION: August 2023

Earn your degree, tuition-free via The Seattle Promise Program  

Earn your degree, tuition free via Seattle Promise. A college tuition and support program launched by the City of Seattle, Seattle Colleges and Seattle Public Schools following passage of the Families, Preschool, and Promise (FEPP) Levy in 2018. 

Seattle Promise has three core components:

  1. Tuition at the three Seattle Colleges: South, Central, or North
  2. Equity scholarships, which provide flexible funding to students, for books, transportation, housing, or other student needs
  3. Student supports and advising beginning in the junior year of high school and lasting through completion of a degree, certificate, credential or transfer to a four-year institutions.

Seattle voters passed the FEPP Levy in November 2018 with the goal of achieving educational equity, closing opportunity gaps, and building a better future for Seattle students. 

For more information on the Seattle Promise Program, visit https://www.seattlecolleges.edu/promise.


King County levy for seniors and vets wins voter approval

El Centro de la Raza is thrilled King County voters heavily supported the renewal of a levy for veterans and senior services approved another six years of a tax that funds programs for veterans, seniors and other vulnerable people.

Voting matters!

Source, The Seattle Times. Read more here.


Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell Announces City Initiative to Help Save Families Up to $23,000 Per Year 

New CiviForm program reduced time for residents to apply to City discount programs by 80%, offering up to $23,000 total possible savings.  

Benefits portal at seattle.gov/affordable makes it easier and faster for residents to get the help they need. 

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell announced the expansion of the City’s Affordable Seattle initiative – part of his efforts to make City discount and benefit programs easily accessible to all. Mayor Harrell has championed CiviForm – an innovative portal designed as a simple one-stop shop to quickly and conveniently apply for City services to save residents time and money by making it easier to apply for multiple benefit and discount programs at the same time. This initiative is supported by a new Executive Order directing all City benefit and discount programs to identify and implement changes that decrease the burden on residents. Among the changes, departments are directed to adopt or integrate with the CiviForm platform by the end of 2024.  

CiviForm is a tool that makes it faster and easier for residents to apply to City of Seattle benefit and discount programs and was designed with community input to ensure it works for the neighbors who will benefit the most. 

“Rooted in Seattle’s spirit of big ideas and support for those in need, we are leveraging innovation and collaboration to make it easier for people to understand what assistance programs they qualify for and then apply in just minutes. CiviForm exemplifies our One Seattle approach to public-private collaborations: its development was supported by know-how from technology companies and its design was informed by testing with community non-profit partners” said Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell.

Residents and community partners can learn about, check their eligibility, and apply for City of Seattle benefits and discount programs at www.seattle.gov/affordable.

Currently, the City of Seattle offers residents the ability to apply for the following programs via CiviForm: 

  • Seattle Parks and Recreation Scholarship Program: Residents can save 50-90% off recreation programs for all ages including aquatics, recreation, preschool and childcare.  
  • Seattle Preschool Program: Residents can get access to free or discounted preschool for children ages three and four. 
  • Gold Card: Residents ages 60 and older can save on retail, services, art, entertainment, and tourism with the Gold Card, including free passes to the Seattle Aquarium. 
  • FLASH Card: Residents ages 18-59 with qualifying disabilities can save on retail, services, art, entertainment, and tourism with the FLASH Card, including free passes to the Seattle Aquarium. 

The site is accessible via desktop and mobile in eight languages: English, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Somali, Amharic, Korean and Tagalog.  

Daniela Lizarraga, Navigator Supervisor, El Centro de la Raza 

“Collaborating with the City of Seattle and Google.org has been amazing. My dedication is to serve families in Seattle who face language and technology barriers. I was honored to be able to provide valuable feedback and lift the voices of the community I work with in hopes to have more equitable access to resources through CiviForm.” 

Katie Yuen, Community Connector, El Centro de la Raza 

“It is a privilege to work closely with the city and google.org to design a platform to help our vulnerable community. They are such a professional and knowledge team. I believe technology can change life, especially for those who have language barriers.  Seattle’s cost of living has sky-rocketed, the CivicForm would impact many people to make their lives easier.”

Read more here.


Banning these five things would reduce plastic waste by 1.4M tons each year: report

Stopping the production of these items could also reduce humanity’s carbon footprint.

Five single-use plastic items like cigarette filters and plastic straws should be banned to reduce the amount of plastics polluting our oceans, according to a new report from the Ocean Conservancy.

Bans on single-use plastic bags, straws, cutlery, cigarette filters and Styrofoam food containers in the United States would reduce plastics usage by about 450 billion pieces a year.  

That reduction would shrink the country’s plastic waste by 1.4 million tons, according to the report.

Read more here.

Take Action: June 2023

The Latino Center for Health summit, Long COVID in the Latinx Community: An Unaddressed Consequence of COVID shares their findings. 

An overview of the key topics discussed at the summit. This document, titled “LCH Long COVID Summit Overview,” is attached to this email. We believe it will serve as a valuable resource, capturing the essence of the insights and ideas generated throughout the event.

A call to action from The United Farm Workers of America union (UFW) to contact your local Safeway Store Manager, and tell them to support UFW by buying union Monterey Mushrooms. 

Contact: Irv Hershenbaum, First Vice President, United Farm Workers, cell # 661-979-6270

Cuentos from Our Work: June 2023

Four Amigos – Beloved Community Ground Breaking

In a festive and energizing ceremony, El Centro de la Raza broke ground on its newest affordable housing project, the Four Amigos – Beloved Community, in Columbia City on June 14th, 2023 in front of nearly 100 people, including community members and leaders, and elected officials. 

The $64-million, family-oriented building will have 87 apartments, most of which will be two- and three-bedroom units. The building will serve families with incomes between 30% and 60% of the area median income. It is just two rail stops from Plaza Maestas, where El Centro de la Raza’s headquarters and services are located.

“This mixed-use development is named in honor of the Four Amigos, who emphasized the importance of multiracial collaboration, and the continued effort for justice,” said Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza. “Their legacy of multiracial unity continues to inspire people in our region and beyond. While we have achieved a lot over the last 50 years, there’s still much work to do.” 

The building will house an early childhood development center and the Consejo Counseling and Referal Service satellite office. The Church of Hope, located at the site where the building will be constructed, partnered with El Centro de la Raza to provide affordable housing. The church will be housed next to the building. 

“The residents of this development will experience improved health outcomes, attainable educational opportunities, and stability for families and their children. That’s what we all want, and they deserve that,” Ortega said. “Affordable housing is a public good that will benefit not only this neighborhood but the entire city by supporting local businesses. People will contribute to the local economy and create more job opportunities. 

The project is expected to be completed by 2024. Latino-focused art will adorn the exterior with mosaics and murals created by local Latino artists. 

“The wonderful thing about the Four Amigos – Beloved Community development is that it is designed and planned so that it can serve families with children,” said Miguel Maestas, Associate Director of El Centro de la Raza.

Original Gang of Four member Larry Gossett told the crowd about the social justice struggle he and the other Four Amigos led over 50 years ago and Roberto Maestas’ declaration that The Beacon Hill School he had taken over “would be called El Centro de la Raza.” 

“I’d like all of you to join me right now in honoring El Centro de la Raza for continuing this excellent commitment to all the people of the greater Seattle community in the manner that they have, with this being the latest example,” Gossett said. 

Media Round Up

Yahoo News: Groundbreaking ceremony for new affordable housing building (yahoo.com)

South Seattle Emerald: El Centro de la Raza Breaks Ground on Columbia City Housing Development | South Seattle Emerald

The Seattle Time: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon-pledges-23-million-to-build-affordable homes-in-seattle/

A heartfelt thank you to all of our speakers and participants for being part of this special event! Your contributions have helped us go above and beyond! 

Estela Ortega, Executive Director of El Centro de la Raza.

Miguel Maestas, Associate Director of El Centro de la Raza

Brian Ramirez, Housing Development Associate of El Centro de la Raza

Joseph Martin, Indigenous Pray Song Performer

José Martí Child Development Center Children Performers

Larry Gossett, Member of “The Four Amigos”

Daniel J. Glen, 7 Directions Architects

Emily Alvarado, Vice President of Enterprise Community Partners 

Maiko Winkler-Chin, Director of Seattle Office of Housing

Marion Mollegen McFadden, Principal Deputy Assistance Secretary for Community Planning and Development, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Bishop Shelley M. Bryan Wee

Pastor Darla DeFrance, Columbia City Church of Hope

Cuentos from Our Work: May 2023

Cinco de Mayo

So many community members came out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with us, and we are so grateful! We had prepared for the worst, but the weather was kind and stayed sunny and warm for most of the day.

There were so many fantastic performers, including traditional singers, dancers, and musicians. The amount of talent on display was inspiring! Teachers and students from all our José Martí Centers also put on a fashion show wearing traditional clothing to celebrate the diversity of their cultures!

We also had so many wonderful small businesses selling art, clothing, jewelry and other hand-made items. Our food vendors were much in demand as people lined up to try their delicious food! Several organizations also joined us to provide vital resources, like vaccinations, to our community.

Mil gracias to everyone that made this event so successful, including our staff, volunteers, vendors and performers! A very special thanks to our generous sponsors: Beacon Arts, the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Geico, UW Medicine and Harborview Medical Center. Our celebration would not have been possible without them!

Take Action: Requiring King County Businesses to Accept Cash and the 2023 Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Awards Nominations

King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has introduced an ordinance that would make it illegal for businesses in unincorporated King County to refuse payments in cash. There is a lot of data out there that shows cashless businesses hurt communities of color, seniors, undocumented residents and refugee and immigrant communities, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and those experiencing homelessness. Everyone should be able to participate in our economy, be able to purchase food and other basic items, and be able to pay with cash if they’re unbanked or underbanked or prefer not using bank cards because of privacy concerns.

The first hearing on this ordinance will on March 28 at 9:30 in the Local Services Committee. Please email or call your Councilmember to show your support of this ordinance! You can find your district and Councilmember contact information here and sample email and phone messages below.

Sample email:


My name is [YOUR NAME] and I live in the [DISTRICT NUMBER] District. I’m writing to you to express my support for the recently introduced ordinance by Councilmember Kohl-Welles that would make it illegal for businesses in unincorporated King County to refuse cash payments
. Cashless businesses have been show to hurt already marginalized communities, like people of color, seniors, undocumented, refugee and immigrant communities, disabled people, and those experiencing homelessness

According to the FDIC’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2020 (May 2021), 18% of adults in the U.S. are unbanked or underbanked, meaning they may lack access to digital forms of payment, including credit or debit cards. This problem is worse for minority households, adults with less education and adults with lower income.

Another concern is that noncash transactions generate vast amounts of data. Paying with cash provides consumers with significantly more privacy than do electronic forms of payment.

Furthermore, when consumers are forced to pay for goods and services in cashless transactions, they (as well as the businesses where they shop) are also often forced to incur added expenses in the form of network and transaction fees.

It is crucial for people to be able to obtain necessities at their local stores and restaurants without being turned away because they want to pay with cash.

Thank you for your leadership on these important issues,

Sample phone message:

My name is [YOUR FIRST & LAST NAME] and I am your constituent. I’m calling to express my support for the recently introduced ordinance by Councilmember Kohl-Welles that would make it illegal for businesses in unincorporated King County to refuse cash payments.

Cashless businesses hurt communities that are more likely to be unbanked or underbanked, which include people of color, seniors, undocumented, refugee and immigrant communities, disabled people, and those experiencing homelessness. Cash payments also provide more privacy and do not incur added expenses in the form of network and transaction fees which burden lower margin businesses.

It is crucial for people to be able to obtain necessities at their local stores and restaurants without being turned away because they want to pay with cash.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue!

Also, read the ACLU blog post about the importance of requiring businesses to accept cash.

2023 Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award Nominations

El Centro de la Raza’s late founder, Roberto Maestas helped organize the 1972 peaceful occupation of the abandoned Beacon Hill school, which later became El Centro de la Raza as we know it today. Roberto Maestas’s life was dedicated to building “Beloved Community” through multi-racial unity. He deeply believed that poverty, racism, and social inequity could only be eradicated if people of all races and backgrounds came together to do so.
In honor of Roberto and his legacy, the 13th Annual Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award recognizes two individuals who have exemplified Building the Beloved Community through multi-racial unity and working to eliminate poverty, racism, and social inequity. We encourage people of all races, ethnicities, ages, and gender identities to apply for this award. 
El Centro de la Raza will celebrate awardees and their contributions by making a $1,000 gift in their name to an organization of their choice. Award recipients will be recognized at El Centro de la Raza’s Building the Beloved Community Gala, which is set to take place on Saturday, October 14, 2023.
Legacy Award applicants can self-nominate or be nominated by someone else here.

The Deadline for application submission is Tuesday, May 31, 2023 at 5:00pm Pacific Time.

Cuentos from Our Work: March 2023

Skate and Connect Community Night

On Monday February 20th, we welcomed over 200 attendees to our Skate and Connect event at our recently acquired El Centro Skate Rink.

Familias from across King County came out to enjoy our skate rink and connect with local community organizations. The event was an opportunity for community members to create relationships while also having fun and staying active.

Thank you to everyone who came out to support this event, and to our community partners who helped make it a success! We look forward to continuing to provide opportunities for our community to come together and connect in meaningful ways.

Hip Hop is Green

Some of our youth program participants have recently been working with Hip Hop Is Green (HHIG), the first Hip Hop plant-based climate change health and wellness organization. They give the students the opportunity to increase their leadership skills and participate in multiple community-based projects throughout the Seattle area. Through workshops and activities, our scholars have learned about the global impact of external factors such as pollution and government. They have also learned about the importance of selecting healthy food decisions and advocating for their rights. Most importantly, students have developed their confidence on how to create community-driven innovative solutions in their community.

Federal Way Mirror Article of the Year 2023

The Federal Way Mirror recently named the story of our acquisition of the former Pattison’s West skating rink as their 2023 Article of the Year. It is a testament to the dedication and support of our community. Gracias to reporter Alex Bruell for his wonderful article and the whole Federal Way Mirror for this honor!

Read the original winning article on the Federal Way Mirror website.

Our Executive Director Estela Ortega, left, stands with Mirror reporter Alex Bruell and Liz Huizar, director of Youth Services at El Centro de la Raza.
(Photo credit Olivia Sullivan / The Mirror)

PRESS RELEASE: Nonprofit El Centro De La Raza to Save Beloved Skating Rink in Federal Way as Part of South King County Expansion Purchase

Contact: Maria Paguada | Email: mpaguada@elcentrodelaraza.org | Phone: (206) 957-4605 |

For immediate release – Oct. 4, 2022

The purchase is part of a grand master plan to build a community center, affordable housing and other services in the area

SEATTLE—Nonprofit El Centro de la Raza has bought Pattison’s West Skating Center in Federal Way as part of a planned expansion into Federal Way that will bring a community center, affordable housing, a child development center and other services into the area.

The $6.5 million transaction has been finalized today.

Pattison’s West Skating Rink was slated to close, but El Centro de la Raza, which already has an office at the site, bought the venue because of the positive impact it has in the community.

“The rink brings the community and families together and creates jobs for area youth, so we saw it as an essential piece of our plans,” said Estela Ortega, executive director of El Centro de la Raza. “It is not just about the community center and affordable housing. The rink is a local cultural fixture that we see as part of our overall efforts to bring services to the area.”

Ortega stressed that the development in Federal Way will support all small businesses to set up shop at the location. Plans also include social services and the development of a mercado, or market, for small businesses and entrepreneurs to sell their products.

The complex will be built in phases, which will include construction of a total of 208 affordable housing units. The community center will include youth services and space for artists. It is located at the intersection of Pacific Highway South and 16th Ave. S.

Funding for the development is expected to come from the state of Washington, federal funds, a loan from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, and other sources. Construction is expected to begin in 2025.

The Federal Way project is not the first large project El Centro de la Raza has undertaken. Plaza Maestas, a mixed-use building in Seattle containing 112 affordable housing units, an early learning, and office and retail space, was built in 2016.

The organization is also getting close to completing fundraising for another affordable housing development in Columbia City. That $58-million, family-oriented building will have 87 apartments, most of which will be two-and three-bedroom units. It will also provide community services and will have murals by local artists.

“Affordable housing development is new to community-based organizations and communities of color,” Ortega said. “When community-based organizations develop affordable housing and services, it creates stability for the organizations, communities, and other good things begin to happen.”

Estela Ortega is available for interviews.

About El Centro de la Raza

As an organization grounded in the Latino community of Washington State, it is the mission of El Centro de la Raza (The Center for People of All Races) to build the Beloved Community through unifying all racial and economic sectors; to organize, empower, and defend the basic human rights of our most vulnerable and marginalized populations; and to bring critical consciousness, justice, dignity, and equity to all the peoples of the world. We envision a world free of oppression based on poverty, racism, sexism, sexual orientation, and discrimination of any kind that limits equal access to the resources that ensure a healthy and productive life in peace, love and harmony for all peoples and our future generations. Learn more at www.elcentrodelaraza.org.