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 (

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

The Seattle Time: 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: | 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

La Coperacha: September 2022

Our Navigation Program Team assists families by providing a variety of resources to meet their needs. If you can donate any of the items below, that will help our Navigators assemble basic needs kits ready for families in our Navigation Program who are facing housing uncertainty. Please see the list below or place orders via our Amazon List:

Ultimamente, nuestras familias se enfrentan con gran incertidumbre en encontrar alojamiento. Si puede donar algunos de los siguientes artículos, sería una tremenda ayuda!

Vea la lista aquí o en Amazon:

Our Navigation Program has about 20 families this month with the needs below.

Recibimos pedidos de 20 familias cada mes de los siguientes artículos.

The Navigation Team appreciates you and your efforts. Please contact Daniela Lizarraga for donation coordination at (206) 957-4647 or

Judge Vargas: Celebrating Latin@ Excellence & Compassion

Today, Judge Vargas oversees a department of over 110 employees, including attorneys, supervisors, investigators, social workers, paralegals, and legal assistants. She made sure the department made major changes to be able to continue to serve the public virtually during the pandemic. In fact, King County Court emerged as a national leader in adopting technology to maintain access to justice

Part of her success was logistical- she communicated internal changes as they unfolded with her teams. Another part of her success was cultural, according to her colleague, Judge Veronica Galván, who went to the same high school as Judge Vargas. She describes it as the belief that with effort, anything is possible. The work ethic that says, Echale ganas. Give it your all.

Judge Vargas gave it her all for 18 years as a public defender. She gravitated towards cases with families involved in the At-Risk Youth/CHINS/and Truancy system. She knew first-hand how people in under-resourced communities can fall through the cracks. These cracks were amplified during the pandemic, especially for families who already had less access to childcare support, healthcare or typical 9-5 jobs.

To Judge Galván, a critical factor to succeeding as women of color in a field where they are the minority is to occupy these paces as themselves. This also means bringing an enormous amount of compassion cultivated from seeing what can happen when under-resourced communities do not have support.

“Public defenders have to wade through the morass of allegations and find their humanity and come to face with your own [when you are doing the work of a public defender].” Many times they are working with clients on the worst days of their life, watching the consequences of personal trauma unfolding in the legal system.

We are grateful for the tireless work of bringing compassion to the justice system and celebrate the dedication and excellence of Latin@s like Judge Vargas and Judge Galván.

September 2022: Cuentos from Our Work

Our 2022 Legacy Roberto Maestas Legacy Award Honorees

Our founder Roberto Maestas believed that the collective power of people of all races and backgrounds could eradicate poverty, racism, and social inequity when working in concert to build Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Beloved Community. 

In his honor, the Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award recognizes individuals whose work embodies this commitment.  El Centro de la Raza is pleased to recognize our 2022 Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Award honorees, Aneelah Afzali and Carlos Jiménez. We will honor the work that they do at our 50th Anniversary Building the Beloved Community Gala this October.

Aneelah Azfali

Aneelah Afzali is a Harvard Law School attorney who left her legal career in 2013 to pursue service and community activism.  She is the founder and Executive Director of the American Muslim Empowerment Network at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS-AMEN). MAPS-AMEN strives to bridge gaps between faith and non-faith-based communities, to help increase understanding towards Islam and Muslims, and to build relationships across religious, racial, cultural, and political differences. Serving as a bridge to bring together communities, as well as a passionate and fierce advocate for marginalized groups, Aneelah Afzali has established herself as a powerful justice leader in our community who works day-to-day to combat hate, racism, and violence.

Carlos Jiménez

Carlos Jiménez is a long-term pioneer for social change and advocate for the Latino community in Washington. Jiménez currently serves as the co-founder of Centro Cultural Mexicano, a cultural and enrichment center based out of Redmond, WA that is focused on the needs of the Latino Chicano community. The mission of Centro Cultural is to inspire inclusive participation by the community in all aspects of education, culture, and society by providing opportunities for individuals to create a positive future for themselves and their families. Carlos Jiménez ‘s dedication on the Latino community in King County and his focus on educating and supporting community such that we may all live with dignity and respect echoes the work of Dr. King and his dream of “Beloved Community.”

We won the Nonprofit Softball Championship!

We are officially the 2022 softball champions!!

Representing El Centro de la Raza, a team of current and former employees, friends, children and spouses has won the championship!

In the summertime, we take the opportunity to play on Wednesdays evenings against other nonprofits to build community and enjoy the beautiful weather! Check us out next season!

How we are helping infants at home meet their developmental goals, virtually

We want to share with you a very inspiring story about how a mom’s dedication is transforming her baby’s life through our Parents as Teachers programs.  We have found that by offering some of our programs virtually, programs like Parents as Teachers has been able to meet more families, more frequently, and see bigger changes in the lives of families welcoming newborns. We’d love to share with you the impact we are seeing on Jennifer and her two 13-month old babies, in just two months.

Though Jennifer had two healthy pregnancies last year of a twin boy and girl, she signed up for our Parents as Teachers Program to ensure her babies were hitting the developmental milestones they should be. 

In June, Alejandrina Gonzalez from our Parents as Teachers program, started working with Jennifer and her babies virtually.  In the first, call, Alejandrina observed that the baby boy was having trouble opening his left hand and had not yet started crawling.  When Alejandrina checked in about reading activities, Jennifer shared she had trouble reading. At the end of the first video conference, Alejandrina reviewed a few activities that the mother could carry out to encourage the child to crawl.

By the second meeting, Jennifer was so happy to show that her baby had started crawling!  As recommended, Jennifer had indeed implemented the activities several times a day.  They could already see a marked improvements in his motor abilities.

To make sure that the babies were enjoying interacting with books, Alejandrina recommended that Jennifer tell them about the images.   Now it is an activity they share with great joy together.

Jennifer’s willingness and commitment is making a difference in the daily success of her children by developing their skills and promoting an experience-rich environment that supports continuous learning.  We applaud her work and commitment!

Let’s get Voting!

With the help of our Navigators, Jorge, a Mexican native voted for the first time after 35 years of living in the United States!

In 2022 Jorge moved to Seattle, WA and finally understood the need and importance to vote after receiving information and guidance from El Centro staff. Jorge was empowered and guided by El Centro’s navigators through the process to register to vote for the first time. Jorge feels like a true American with this opportunity to vote and for his voice to be heard.  

Look out for events near you to support getting out the vote this September 20th, national voter registration day!

Events: September 2022

September 14: Estela Ortega will be throwing the opening pitch at the Mariner’s Game!

Get your tickets here: !

September 17-18: Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias 2022

Seattle Center Festál presents Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias in partnership with Sea Mar Community Health Centers.

Sea Mar Fiestas Patrias commemorates the independence of Latin American countries, many of which celebrate their national independence day in the month of September. It is a festival to celebrate history, while taking pride in the new generations of Latinos who now call the United States home.

Throughout the two-day event at Seattle Center, attendees can enjoy delicious traditional Latin American food and cooking demonstrations, live music, traditional folk dance performances, art exhibitions representing Latino culture, free health screenings, children’s activities and more.

We will be there and look forward to seeing you there!

Dates: Saturday, September 17, 2022 starting at 1 PM – 7 PM & Sunday, September 18, 2022 starting at 1 PM – 6 PM

Location: Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109

King County Voter Registration Drive

Date: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Start Time: 9:00 AM

Addresss: 1511 3rd Avenue, Suite 900, Seattle, WA 98101 US

Host Contact Info:

October 8: Reserve your tickets for our 5oth Anniversary Gala now!

Celebrate 50 triumphant years of El Centro de la Raza with us at our annual Building the Beloved Community Gala on October 8th, 2022. It has been an honor to spend the last half-century dedicating our work towards serving our community, and we have so many people that we are grateful to. We want to dedicate this momentous anniversary year to:

  • Pioneers of social change, including advocates for mutli-racial unity, shepherds of anti-war movements, local faith communities, volunteers, and activists
  • The people who originally occupied the old Beacon Hill school in the name of dignity and for a better life for the Latino community
  • Our generous supporters from all walks of life, who have made it possible for us to continue our work, from 1972 to this present day

It is an honor to still be here today providing critical services, life-changing opportunities, developing resiliency, and hope. We are so fortunate to not only be surviving, but thriving, with all thanks due to our incredible community of supporters, donors, residents, and staff.


Join us on Saturday, October 8, 2022 for our 50th Anniversary Building the Beloved Community Gala and take part in an exciting live event that raises funds for vital programs and services that benefit more than 21,000 individuals and families across our region. The evening also includes the presentation of our Roberto Felipe Maestas Legacy Awards & Scholarships. Registration will become available later this year.

Please call (206) 957-4649 or email for more information.

August 2022: Call to Action, Let’s Fix the Harm!

Fix the Current Harm from 450,000 Sea-Tac Flights

It has been almost a year since El Centro de la Raza started an Environmental Justice Organizing and Education training with the Plaza Roberto Maestas and El Patio residents that aims to develop and promote environmental justice leadership, education, and community organizing within the Latino Community. The program includes topics such as the environmental justice movement, climate change, air and noise pollution, community organizing and more! Through the program, we aim to enable and empower our community to act as leaders and influence policy makers to improve environmental and health outcomes for Beacon Hill residents as they are disproportionately impacted by surrounding airports and major roadways causing air and noise pollution.

Beacon Hill is surrounded by major roadways where aircraft fly over us on average every 90 seconds causing air and noise pollution that lead to health impacts such as asthma, lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and other ailments. Noise pollution can lead to higher stress levels, less sleep, poorer cardiovascular health, and reduction in learning capabilities in youth. Yet our community, which is made up of primarily people of color, refugees, and immigrants, are not eligible for mitigation. Mitigation efforts can include funding for double panned windows to reduce the indoor noise, or more tree canopy to help filter and reduce air and noise pollution. Where you live, your income, race or language ability shouldn’t determine how healthy you are. However, the reality is that as low-income people of color, people are likelier to be disproportionately harmed by environmental issues.

Thirty community members from El Patio & Plaza Roberto Maestas have completed the Environmental Justice and education training with El Centro de la Raza. Through community organizing and leadership community members have come together as an important part of the fight against the exacerbated threat of air and noise pollution from the proposed Sea-Tac Airport Sustainable Air Master Plan (SAMP).

Through our Environmental Justice and Education Program, participants gained the knowledge and tools to make their voices heard as they fight for environmental justice for their families, friends, and community, including through story telling. Participants have expressed their concern in the added harm that SAMP will bring to their communities as flights are slowly increasing to pre-COVID flight numbers.

Community member Sandra Santos has expressed her concern in the increased flights as she is now aware of the health impacts it has on her family, especially her daughter who suffers from depression and is beginning to show symptoms of asthma. Santos is also aware of the climate impacts that aircraft aviation emissions will account for 25% of the global carbon budget by 2050. Forest fires is an additional concern Santos is worried will continues to worsen if nothing is done about the Climate Crisis. Santos fights for environmental justice for the health and future of her daughter as she wants a cleaner and sustainable world for her daughter.

Participants have continued to be involved after completing the EJ Training course by helping collects signatures for the Fix the Current Harm letter of concern that will be included in the comments to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the SeaTac Airport service expansion. El Centro de la Raza is continuing to organize more community members to participate in the Environmental Justice & Education program to continue to grow the movement. To support airport-impacted communities sign and share the letter of concern to help reach our goal of 4,000 signatures.