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Spanish American Committee celebrates 42 years with Noche de Gala

Special to La Prensa


Cleveland’s oldest and largest Latino social service organization, Spanish American Committee (SAC), celebrated its 42nd year with dining and dancing at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2008. 


Moises Torres, Yaris Martínez, Lucy Torres, Mayor Frank Jackson, Rose Santiago, & Dennis Ancell at SAC’s Noche de Gala.

Photos by Creative Business Webs

Almost 500 people attended the event, co-chaired by: Judge José Villanueva, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, and Cleveland Ward 14 Councilman Joseph Santiago.


The program, during the dinner portion of the evening, featured an award presented to SAC for its service to the community. Natividad Pagán, presented the “Valor Boricua” award on behalf of Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center. Pagán cited SAC’s years of service and a legacy of developing Latino/a leaders in Cleveland.


This year’s keynote speaker was Andrés González, Director of the Office of Diversity at the Cleveland Clinic.  As he spoke of the growth of the Latino population and its impact on the labor force and purchasing power, he talked about companies that are ‘consumer conscious.’ 


He used Wal-Mart and Frito-Lay and their approaches to the Latino market as examples.  Wal-Mart, in a survey, found its popularity among Latinos is due, in part, to its hiring Spanish-speaking employees and having signs in Spanish. Wal-Mart works with 34 organizations nationally to attract Latino talent to their staffs, according to González.


González added that Frito-Lay wanted a product that they could specifically market to Latinos and asked its own Latino/a employees what that product might be—they responded with a guacamole Doritos chip that now is the company’s second largest seller, with over $100,000,000 in sales annually.


After recounting the Spanish American Committee’s history and impact on the employment arena, González stressed the position of SAC as a partner to companies seeking talent.

He closed quoting César Chávez, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community....Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”


Efrain Colón, SAC Board President, concluded the dinner portion of the evening, recounting that at a meeting in the basement of his home, Moises Maldonado pulled out $20 from his pocket, and with those other leaders of the community in attendance, created the Spanish American Committee in 1966. 


Among those original SAC founders and attending the Gala was Geraldo Gómez. Colón acknowledged the contributions of many others who followed Maldonado and Gómez as leaders of “El Comité” throughout the years.  He especially expressed gratitude to Daisy Rivera, who in the 1990s lead SAC and saved the organization from having to close its doors.


Moises and Marilyn Torres with Key Bank’s José and Pat Rivera

After the dinner program, the party was opened to the public with music provided by DJ Vic and “The Pavaotti of Salsa,” Tito Nieves y su Orquestra.


Above: Andrés & Jessica González

Geraldo & Angie Colón

Olga and Juan Roman and Linda and Richard Estremera

Efrain Colón and Santiago Feliciano

Henry Ortiz, Santiago Feliciano, and Lorraine Vega





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