Hispanic Heritage Month
Seattle Municipal Archives Feature
Social justice activist Roberto Maestas (1938-2010) testified at many public hearings and Seattle City Council meetings. He lent his voice to the fight for the establishment of El Centro in 1972 and in support of many other organizations in the struggle for civil rights in Seattle.
In 1973, Maestas spoke at a public hearing advocating for a day care and health clinic. His full comments can be read and heard here.
A partial transcript follows:
"My name is Roberto Maestas. I support the Minority Coalition for an Equitable Revenue Sharing System of course, but I can only speak specifically about our priorities inside that proposal. Our priorities are day care and health this time around. There’s a building on Beacon Hill that we hope to use for putting some badly needed services in there. We’re asking you to make the same kind of priority that we were forced to make in the coalition, that is, we had to leave some badly needed things out in favor of others. I understand that one of your dilemmas has to do with last year’s bills that were going unpaid or unprojected costs. It seems unfair to me that projected revenues should be used to pay old bills, unless I’m incorrect."
El Centro poster depicting Roberto Maestas found on Flickr Commons.
In May, 1974 Roberto Maestas wrote to City Council requesting additional Model Cities funding for El Centro.
(Comptroller/Clerk File 279021)
Glenn Young, board member of the Cascade Community Council, wrote in support of the request, stating that "the progress of El Centro has been amazing and very remarkable for an institution with such a short history." City Council and the Mayor approved the additional funding.
Seattle City Council issued a proclamation in 2007 honoring the staff and volunteers at El Centro de la Raza. The proclamation read, in part:
- El Centro de la Raza, grounded in the Latino community, seeks to build unity across all racial and economic sectors, to organize, empower, and defend the most vulnerable and marginalized populations and to bring justice, dignity, equality, and freedom to all peoples of the words,
- The seeds for El Centro were planted on October 11, 1972 through a peaceful sit-in at Beacon Hill Elementary School lead by Roberto Maestas, who brought together black, white, Asian-Pacific Islander, Native American, and Latino people to protest cuts in anti-poverty and education programs at South Seattle Community College;
- From the sit-in, El Centro de la Raza has evolved into a leading force for social justice and steadfast provider of crucial human services and cultural programming for all kinds of people in Seattle, while posing the question: "What Kind of world Will we Leave Our Children?"
City Council passed a resolution honoring Roberto Maestas in 2010. The resolution gave an honorary designation of a portion of South Lander Street as "Roberto Maestas Festival Street." The Resolution read, in part:
- Roberto Maestas founded El Centro de la Raza and was executive director of the organization for 37 years
- El Centro de la Raza is a voice and a hub for the Latino community and provides an array of social, human, and educational services to people of all races and ethnicities
- Roberto Maestas will be remembered as a tireless, visionary and courageous leader who lived his convictions
- Roberto Maestas’ work has made Seattle a better place for all of us.
- Related Collections in the Seattle Municipal Archives
- Maestas can be heard at a public hearing in 1973 arguing for funding for Chicano health and day care services.
- The Seattle Municipal Archives holds archival resources on the establishment of El Centro de la Raza. The decision to use Beacon Hill Elementary School for a community resource center for the Chicano/Latino community in the Seattle area can be found in the records of Mayor Uhlman, Record Series 5287-02, Box 30.
- Documentation of the rehabilitation of Beacon Hill School to house El Centro de la Raza can be found in the records of the Model City program, Record Series 5421-06.
- Additional Resources
- Roberto Maestas voice interviews and an article, Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project
- Roberto Maestas article, History Link
- In memorium, Seattle PI
- Councilmember Jean Godden remembers Roberto Maestas, Crosscut
- A history of El Centro de la Raza
- Latino City Employees
- Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
- Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), Office of Human Rights
- RSJI related blog articles, Council Connection, Seattle City Council