El Centro Hispano: a vital part of Lancaster’s rich cultural history
Today the Hispanic community represents a full 40% of the City of Lancaster. This extraordinary statistic reflects a vigorous pattern of growth stretching back to the 1940’s when small groups of Puerto Ricans left their families behind to become migrant workers in Lancaster’s rich agricultural fields. As opportunities opened over the next several decades for better work in manufacturing industries, hotels, restaurants and poultry processing plants, families were reunited and the community quickly grew..
Demographics shifted again in the 1970s as an influx of new arrivals from other Hispanic cultures came seeking refuge from political unrest and brutal poverty in Mexico and Central America. Lancaster’s Hispanic community found itself diversifying as families seeking hope and opportunity arrived from Ecuador, Colombia, Dominica, Peru, Salvador, Chile, Mexico and Cuba.
ANSWERING THE NEED
During this time, there was an urgent need in the Latino community to create a civic infrastructure to help struggling families integrate into the social and economic fabric of Lancaster. Churches played an important role in providing these early services, particularly Catholic Social Services (now Catholic Charities) but more was needed as the Latino population expanded.
This was the situation in 1971 which prompted a group of community leaders to come together and form the Spanish American Civic Association. The group quickly organized to provide a central community focus, El Centro Hispano Community Center, which officially opened its doors to the Hispanic community on November 1, 1973.
40+ YEARS OF COMMUNITY STRENGTH
Over the last 40+ years El Centro Hispano has been a consistent and stable source for help and support for two generations of Latinos seeking a better life. With an expanding scope of services, connections to the larger human services community, and bilingual services to help ease the transition, El Centro has provided a source of pride and comfort to individuals and families when they needed it most.
El Centro Hispano services include:
- senior mealsBilingual information and referral services to help identify resources
- Employment services to create financial stability
- Bilingual case management services to help navigate the system
- A community lunch kitchen for individuals who otherwise would not have a daily meal
- ncr staffTranslation services
- Education for drug and alcohol prevention
- Drug and alcohol treatment
- Mental health services
- The Luis Munoz Martin Senior Citizen Center as an official Lancaster County Office of Aging Senior Center
El Centro Hispano is a source of pride and reliability in the community and its impact has been felt both in local neighborhoods and the wider City of Lancaster. A notable contribution was the work of dedicated El Centro Hispano volunteers to create SACA Development Corporation in 1984 and its successful accomplishments in neighborhood revitalization, the creation of equity wealth through home ownership and economic development.
Another invaluable community resource that arose from the El Centro Hispano community is SACA Broadcasting Corporation. Long recognized for its bilingual public radio broadcasting throughout Lancaster and York counties, SACA Broadcasting has now added TeleCentro, bilingual cable educational cable television, as a classroom in the home for the Latino community.