Hispanic Federation Opens Doors in Orlando 1 comment



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Many local Hispanic leaders attended the Hispanic Federation ribbon cutting, including (from left) Betsy Franceschini of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Office, Daisy Morales of the Soil and Water Board, Josephine Mercado of Hispanic Health Initiatives, Diana Bolívar (in blue top) of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Carolyn Vega-Meléndez of Sen. Marco Rubio’s office. / Facebook photo

A new Latino-based organization opened its doors in Orlando this week to much community fanfare. The Hispanic Federation, a 25-year old New York group, is a new nonprofit in town that is expected to tap the local fund-raising vein to disburse monies to other Latino nonprofits, in much the same way that the United Way does on a larger scale. In 2014 Hispanic Federation raised $7 million in grants and private contributions, an increase of nearly 30 percent from the year before, according to its nonprofit tax filing.

The organization states Its mission is to “empower and advance the Hispanic community” and its logo reads, “Taking Hispanic Causes to Heart.”

The federation’s establishment in Orlando is the first time the organization has moved away from its Northeast base. More important, the nonprofit’s expansion appears to be part of an evolving trend in Orlando, where at least three New York Latino advocacy groups – mostly Puerto Rican – have established a presence in the past year or so.

“Everything helps,” said lawyer Anthony Suárez, whose offices on East Colonial Drive was the site of the ribbon cutting. The Hispanic Federation is subleasing space from Latino Justice, a civil rights advocacy group, which in turn leases from Suárez, a former state legislator.

More Institutions

Many local organizers and activists think there aren’t enough institutions serving the emerging Hispanic populatio

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n, and groups like Latino Justice and Acacia Network, which last year bought the bank note on the iconic Asociación Borinqueña building in east Orange County, may change that.

“This group can make a big big change in our community,” said Josephine Mercado, president and founder of Hispanic Health Initiatives, who was at the ribbon cutting. The federation previously helped her group with enrollment training for the Affordable Care Act.

Mercado confessed that the federal and state grant process has become more difficult and she is worried that organizations like her 14-year old grass-roots Casselberry group may disappear, setting a bad example for younger or emerging Hispanic nonprofits.

“This is all for the better of this area,” Mercado said. “They’re going to give us a sacudón.”

Consulting Fees

The Hispanic Federation last year came under criticism in New York, where reportedly it has close ties to New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the first Puerto Rican to reach that important post.  A story in Crain’s New York Business criticized the federation for spending too much on consultants, which Hispanic Federation officials disputed.

The federation reported it spent $535,000 on consulting fees in 2014, according to its tax filing.

María T. Padilla, Editor

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