By Cliff Lewis
On Thursday evening, May 22, the Spanish American Civic Association (SACA) hosted its 28th annual fiesta at the Centro Hispano building on Pershing Avenue in the Southeast section of Lancaster City. The fundraising event was attended by hundreds of guests, and bounced with a bright tone of celebration—for the Hispanic and Latino community in Lancaster and for the work done by SACA to strengthen that community.
The centerpiece of activity was, undeniably, the food. Four long tables were decked with a colorful spread of foods from various Hispanic and Latino traditions—Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Dominican. One table was lined with sweet slices of flan. Near the entrance, several volunteers cracked open coconuts for guests to sip from a straw.
The rhythms of Latino music pulsed from speakers in the main atrium, where the Herencia Latina Dance Group entertained the crowd with their quickly sweeping steps. And, from this swirl of musical activity, the occasional conga line would spontaneously assemble. (How could anyone resist?)
The event—attended by local politicians including State Representative Mike Sturla, County Commissioner Craig Lehman, and Mayor Rick Gray among others—was more than just a party. It was an opportunity for SACA to promote its current plan for empowering the Latino workforce in Lancaster County. Upon entrance, all guests were provided with a booklet that featured a piece called “A Proposed Investment in the Latino Workforce.” The essay begins by quoting a recent report from the National Council of La Raza:
Even before the economic recession began in 2008, Latinos faced significant disadvantages in the labor market. Despite having the highest workforce participation rate (68%, comparted to 65.6% for all adults), Latinos earn the lowest median wages and have the lowest rates of employer-sponsored health and retirement plan coverage of any group.
The essay goes on to announce the May 2009 opening of the “[email protected] Comunitaria,” a center for Spanish-speaking locals to “upgrade their adult basic education levels [and] access a wide range of services that include workforce readiness, GED Preparation, English as a Second Language, Adult Basic Education, and Job Placement Services.” The center will join Belco Credit Union and Myers Insurance Company in the SACA-developed office building at 452 S Duke St.
The booklet also proposed a plan to partner with the Lancaster Career and Technology Center and other community stakeholders to create a “Technology Center in the southeast quadrant of the city of Lancaster” within the next two years. The center would be used to provide bilingual workforce training opportunities and would also offer a connection to nearby colleges and technical schools.