Established in 1972, Centro Cultural is the oldest culturally specific Hispanic organization in Oregon serving large numbers of Latino residents. Centro fills an important role in our community as an all-purpose hub where people can access services, attend classes and be connected with resources of all kinds. Since its inception, Centro has served Latino families in Washington County with an ever-growing range of programs aimed at creating self-sufficient and active citizens. Centro’s mission is to ensure that Hispanic immigrants are fully prepared to integrate into the larger community. We do that by promoting education and economic development, increasing cultural consciousness, responding to community needs and celebrating understanding among the diverse groups of our community. To ensure that our services have a lasting value to the entire community, we base our programs on the belief that the success of youth is dependent on the support of their parents and the success of individuals is dependent on their integration into the community.
Centro Cultural of Washington County was founded in 1972 by a group of migrant families who wanted, despite resistance from established residents, to make Washington County their permanent home. The fourteen migrant families who founded Centro Cultural believed in creating a vibrant, cohesive society shared and valued by established and newcomer residents of different experiences, histories, ethnicity, and backgrounds. They understood then, as we do today, that revitalization of declining communities can only happen through the contributions of migrant Latino families working in tandem with their native-born neighbors. Many of Centro’s founders have dedicated their lives to civic service and now serve in positions in state, county and city government. Their children and grandchildren continue their work and their success by serving on Centro’s board of directors and by working as volunteers for Centro.
In forty years Centro has evolved from a group of families trying to find housing in an unwelcoming region to a bustling community center where, at various times of the day and week, one can see volunteers playing with children in the nursery while the parents attend classes or register their children for Oregon’s Healthy Kids program; high school and middle school students being helped with their homework or learning new computer skills; individuals receiving referrals to appropriate social services; or families gathering food from our Harvest Share program.