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Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury

  • El Centro Cultural

    The Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury’s LACE Program introduces at-risk students to life changing experiences that combine leadership, athletics, community and education. Working with LACE participants, the Coalition noted a lack of cultural space in and around Waterbury dedicated to Latino heritage. Executive DirectorVictor Lopez explains, “We were looking for a place to celebrate Three Kings Day with our LACE participants and ended up going all the way to New York City because there is nothing closer. We thought it would be wonderful to create a space for our youth to display their cultural heritage right here in Waterbury.”

  • With grant support from Connecticut Community Foundation’s Living Art initiative, the Hispanic Coalition transformed a vacant city property into a beautiful space called El Centro Cultural that showcases Latino culture. “We spoke with the City about borrowing the former Board of Education building on Church Street, which has been vacant for 6 years. Our students immediately jumped on board and helped us clean everything up,” recalls Lopez. LACE Program Director Roslyn Sotero echoes Lopez’s enthusiasm. “Our students are actively engaged in what happens here – it is their space and they have taken tremendous pride in it. El Centro is a place where Latino youth are united with a truthful and meaningful representation of their cultural heritage, history and successes – a huge boost for a population that is often portrayed in a negative light.”

  • El Centro Cultural has been enthusiastically received by the community. “The community is definitely very curious and interested to see what is going on here. We have a number of exhibits representing Dominican, Cuban, Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage and the students themselves have been able to display items belonging to their own families,” reflects Sotero. El Centro is also becoming a natural gathering place. “We have had a lot of requests from groups that want to hold meetings and events here. Waterbury Schools are starting to bring their bilingual students and we are also setting up field trips with Latino students in Hartford and New Haven,” adds Mariah Benjamin, LACE Youth Program Coordinator. Helping to create a space where Hispanic youth are empowered to explore their cultural heritage and display their pride – Timeless Impact.