Concilio’s mission is to cultivate the strength and resilience of children and families, improve the quality of life in our community, and maintain our community’s heritage, history, and culture.
Concilio was founded to recognize and voice the needs of Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican and Latino communities.
Our core value to improve the quality of life in our community means working with local government, community agencies, educational institutions, and the private sector. Most importantly, our mission is influenced by the community’s voice.
Based on prior documentation (Festival Yearbooks), the following listing of leadership in Concilio was developed. It is important to note that for certain periods an Executive Director was not appointed, and the Board President was acting as administrator as well.
Moises Gonzalez, 1962-64
Otilio Maldonado, 1965-66
Manuel Zurita, 1967
Carlos Morales, 1968-70
Ramon Velazquez, 1971-72
Jesus Sierra, 1973-74
Carmen Bolden, 1970-77
Roberto Ivan Figueroa, 1977-78
Benjamin Cuebas, 1979
Candelario Lamboy , 1980-85
Mirabel Lamboy Patruno, 1985-87
Jack Ortiz, 1990-93
Richard Bradley, 1994
Lisa Torres, 1995-96
Roberto Santiago, 1997-2009
Joanna Otero-Cruz, 2010-2016
Adonis Banegas, 2016-Present
The Changing Roles of El Concilio:
One of the Council’s past presidents, Candelario Lamboy, has described the organization’s role with respect to other Puerto Rican and Latino associations in the city as follows:
The Concilio has been a basic building block in the foundation of the Hispanic Community in every way and form, from policy-making and advocacy with local government, community agencies, educational institutions and with the private sector
– Concilio: 25th Anniversary 1988, pp. 34)
In the early 1960s, the city’s Puerto Rican community was relatively small. There were, however, a number of social and fraternal organizations for the Spanish-speaking.
On 1 October 1962, these groups joined together to form a membership federation which they named the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations.
The Council was the first organization of its type in Philadelphia to unite the city’s Puerto Rican and Latino social and civic groups into a coalition for representing Spanish-speaking constituencies to the city at large.
The Council defined its mission in four broad areas: police/community relations, employment, and housing and social services. Initially, these programs were limited in scope because the organization relied solely on voluntary efforts and had no paid staff.
The first headquarters of the organization was located at 2023 N. Front Street, Kensington.
The group started a newspaper, La Voz del Concilio, supported by funds from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (the first issue appeared in September 1966). El Concilio assisted the School District of Philadelphia in establishing a bilingual program.
Concilio developed bilingual informational handouts for governmental offices such as the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (the agency responsible for grievances relating to substandard housing).
Concilio recruited Spanish-speaking applicants for the police and fire departments.
Next came a period of activism and outreach in which El Concilio was incorporated (1967) and became a social service provider in the federal war on poverty (1967-72). In response to the unmet need for social services it was frequently observed that Latinos would not seek assistance from existing public agencies.
Originally the Council was made up of a half-dozen affiliate organizations. By 1968 the Council had 13 affiliates, and by 1976 it represented 21 member organizations with a total of 105 active delegates.
Concilio received grants from the Philadelphia Model Cities Program of the Model Cities Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and a federal urban renewal program. The first award enabled Concilio to commission a Community Residential Survey to collect comprehensive demographic data on areas containing a significant Spanish speaking population.
The survey was intended to prepare a comprehensive, long-range plan to guide the physical and social development of the Spanish-speaking community. Model Cities also supported Concilio’s move to a larger facility, awarding the Council a $200,000 grant to acquire and renovate the Pannonia Beneficial Association facility at 705-709 N. Franklin Street.
Concilio founded the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia.
El Concilio established its own multi-purpose social program, Project Welcome, in 1968. Aimed primarily toward the needs of new arrivals from Puerto Rico, the broad goals of the project were to organize the community, set up training programs, give classes in consumer education, and develop leadership.
Project Welcome involved several full-time staff including a job developer and social worker who offered placement and training programs including a job bank list; social services counseling and referral; escrow services for tenants whose houses had been declared unfit for habitation by the Department of Licenses and Inspections; and services to assist qualified applicants secure public housing, participate in federal housing programs, and increase home ownership options for target-area residents.
The results of Project Welcome highlighted the need for social services among the city’s Spanish-speaking residents. The total clientele handled by El Concilio’s Employment Department alone, from October 1968 through December 1971, was nearly 21,000 people. Of this total, approximately 54 percent were referred to job slots (“Annual Report,” April 1972, p. 5, 17).
In 1969 Concilio founded the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia to provide information and technical assistance to Spanish-speaking businessmen.
Concilio also assisted in establishing a Philadelphia chapter of Aspira (1969), the fifth local chapter of the organization begun in New York in 1961 to encourage Puerto Rican youth to complete their education.
Ombudsman (Consumer Protection) Program, 1970-1977, grew out efforts begun by the Fellowship Commission, a city-wide, nonprofit organization, to develop a consumer protection service in low-income areas.
Project Welcome (1972-1977) was Concilio’s first federally funded undertaking. The project was funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity through grants awarded by the Philadelphia Anti-Poverty Action Commission (PAAC), the agency established by order of the mayor in February 1965 to guide the city’s anti-poverty campaign under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
The Veterans Outreach Program (1972-1974) was designed to enrich and supplement government and private veteran programming by preparing the veteran population in the Puerto Rican and Latino communities for employment opportunities, to render personal and technical assistance, and to provide follow up services for veterans.
Services included counseling and career planning, job recruitment and placement, referral services, educational and training assistance, business development assistance, and social and health services referral. During its first year, the staff identified and contacted over 700 Spanish-speaking veterans and registered and counseled 464 of these individuals.
Consumer Education Program of 1973-1977 was to inform the Spanish-speaking community about consumer topics such as housing, buying on credit, and how to recognize and avoid unfair trade practices.
In 1973, El Concilio sought funding to establish and operate its own Ombudsman Program. The purpose of the program was to protect Spanish-speaking Philadelphians from being victimized by fraudulent business practices which deterred their progress into the economic mainstream.
Concilio’s first formal efforts to provide employment training under government sponsorship began with a contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Employment Security, subcontractor for the WIN (Work Incentive Program) of the U.S. Department of Labor, to employ persons in public service jobs in 1974.
From 1974-76, the Consumer Protection program caseload quadrupled and the ethnic composition changed from almost entirely Latino and Puerto Rican to approximately one-third Spanish-speaking; the remaining clients were evenly divided between African Americans and whites.
Senior Citizens Nutrition Program (1973-1977): Beginning in March 1974, the Council, under contract with the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), provided a daily hot meal to the elderly.
In 1975 Concilio presented a proposal to the City of Philadelphia Coordinating Office for Drug Abuse and Alcohol Programs (CODAAP) to operate a bilingual outpatient treatment center in North Central Philadelphia. Centro PAIAN opened in 1976, providing group therapy, individual counseling, medical and psychiatric services, family counseling, G.E.D. courses, Bible studies, recreational activities, referrals and follow up services.
Concilio resumed its Employment Training/CETA Program in 1975-1983 under contract through the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Employment and Training which administered funds authorized by the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 (CETA) and by the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) which replaced CETA, JTPA Program 1983-1985.
Signed into law in October 1982, the JTPA replaced CETA with the new program and delivered a system to train economically disadvantaged persons for permanent, private-sector employment.
During 1975-76, the Ombudsman program handled 4,075 complaints. Major areas of complaints were landlord-tenant relations, housing, automobile repairs, and fraud and deceptive sales practices involving furniture, appliances, mail order merchandise, home improvements, and insurance.
By 1976 Concilio represented 21 member organizations with a total of 105 active delegates. The Council defined its mission in four broad areas: police/community relations, employment, and housing and social services.
The Redirection Center founded 1976-1979, enabled El Concilio to provide outreach assistance to Spanish-speaking ex-offenders in the Philadelphia area as subject to provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and later amendments. This center provided educational, vocational, and counseling services to Spanish-speaking residents of correctional facilities at Holmesburg, the House of Correction, the Detention Center, and the State Correctional Institution at Graterford.
The Center distributed Spanish versions of voter registration materials, manuals of prisoners’ rights, and information about services for ex-offenders in cooperation with the Prisoners’ Rights Council of Philadelphia which produced these handouts. In the first three months the Redirection Center aided 47 clients.
The Representational years from 1977-84 were troubled ones for El Concilio. First, financial difficulties presented themselves. Subsequently the Council came under increased public scrutiny when irregular accounting procedures came to light. Allegations concerning unpaid back taxes blocked the organization’s attempts to seek further public funds which were increasingly hard to come by in the new political climate.
In 1979 the Council was still operating a number of programs including the senior citizens center, Centro PAIAN, and a Manpower Employment and Training Program staffed.
In 1981, attorney Luis Diaz had established another organization, the Hispanic Federation for Social and Economic Development, to incorporate existing Puerto Rican and Latino community organizations and social service agencies. But El Concilio retained a continuing corporate identity throughout this period of crisis.
In 1984, auditors ruled in favor of Concilio in its dispute with the IRS. State officials in Harrisburg then extended the organization’s permit to generate funds as a non-profit organization.
Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program 1984-1985: El Concilio participated in a city-sponsored employment program for disadvantaged youth.
El Concilio sought through various means to help them preserve their native language and cultural heritage. The most outstanding example of the Council’s cultural stewardship was its sponsorship of the Puerto Rican Week Festival. First celebrated in 1964.
Part of the funding for El Concilio’s employment was provided by the Philadelphia Urban Coalition; the Employment and Training Program was funded by the Philadelphia Private Industry Council, as was the summer youth employment program, PhilaJob, in which El Concilio participated.
The ESL (English as a Second Language) and GED (General Educational DEvelopment) courses which the Council sponsored were funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Council also housed the Institute for Science and Business Education which provided training needed in automated business offices.
The organization had also started a new drug and alcohol program called “La Clinica”. Other programs included employment counseling, referral services, SCOH (Service to Children in their Own Home) through a contract with the city’s Department of Human Services and foster care. El Concilio also conducted an Emergency Service Fund to assist needy persons and families with food and other necessities.
Since funding sources are scarce, Concilio welcomes more volunteer services to maintain its level of operations.
In 1992, part of the funding for El Concilio’s employment service was provided by the Philadelphia Urban Coalition; the Employment and Training Program was funded by the Philadelphia Private Industry Council, as was the summer youth employment program, PhilaJob, in which El Concilio participates. The ESL (English as a Second Language) and GED (General Educational Development) courses which the Council sponsors are funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The Council also houses the Institute for Science and Business Education which provides the training needed in automated business offices.
A day care program was founded. The organization has also started a new drug and alcohol program called “La Clinica.” Other programs include employment counseling, referral services, SCOH (Service to Children in their Own Home) through a contract with the city’s Department of Human Services and foster care. El Concilio conducts an Emergency Service Fund to assist needy persons and families with food and other necessities.