It was 24 years ago and the place was New York City, which that year had sworn in his first African-American mayor. The Hispanic Federation, today a major force among the Latino community and a much heeded voice in Washington, came to light in 1990 as the first organization in the U.S. aimed to serve the most vulnerable members of the Hispanic community.
A group of Latino New York City leaders started weaving a network of agencies, six at the time, and gradually worked their way over the whole state and further into the Northeast. With Luis A. Miranda, Jr. as its first president, the Federation eventually expanded to also serve New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and as of today it has 100 agencies.
“We bring support financially, we are proud to have invested more than $40 million in support of Latino institutions,” Hispanic Federation president Jose Calderon told Fox News Latino. “But we are much more than that. We advocate for the rights of the community.”
One of the first things the Hispanic Federation did to reach the growing Latino presence in the area is produce a weekly radio show highlighting the pressing issues of the community, as well as programs and services available through the Federation and its member agencies. Today, the Federation produces more than 150 public affairs radio shows a year for New York’s three major Spanish-language FM radio stations.
Calderon, a Dominican-born New Yorker who has been at the helm of the federation for over two years now, said the organization’s activities can be divided into three. First, he said, they give grants to non-profits and provide other kinds of support such as training and capacitation courses. They also advocate for the rights of the Hispanic community and promote an agenda that look out for the Latino interests – they are actively involved in drafting laws that touch the Hispanic community, most recently health care and immigration reform bills.
But the engine of the group on the ground is its grassroots work, with programs aimed to help empower the Hispanic community and make sure the ever-growing demographic keeps improving its own standards in the classroom, at home, and ultimately in the political scene.
“We are a platform, a vehicle to reach higher spheres. Before we didn’t have an institution of our own, created by our own, to be a spokesperson in defense of our interest,” Calderon told FNL.
Through public hearings, weekly newspaper columns and Federation-produced radio and television shows, Calderon and the Federation continue to disseminate not only the organization's public policy positions, but also the countless contributions to the culture and the economy.
“We have great needs as a community, but we also highlight the beautiful things we have brought in,” he said. “I am extremely happy to be in a position of making a difference, of finding out how we can introduce changes to better ourselves.”