OCCF’s Board and leadership team are continuing our learning journey to deepen our understanding of the diverse cultures, histories and geographies that comprise Orange County.
We launched this effort on April 13, 2023 with a learning day in Little Saigon and continued this Fall with a focus on Orange County’s Latino communities through a two-part learning experience:
Part One: Historical Context
- Our Latino learning series began with a deep dive into the history of Latino communities in Orange County with Priscilla Levia of Loyola Marymount University. We were proud to explore groundbreaking Orange County cases in the 1940’s that tackled discrimination in education (Mendez v. Westminster) and housing (Doss v. Bernal), paving the way for landmark Supreme Court rulings that ultimately deemed racial segregation unconstitutional.
- Following Dr. Leiva’s presentation, we heard from a panel of prominent leaders within the OC Latino community, including Harvey Moreno—Founder/Owner of Moreno’s Restaurant, Rose Espinoza—Mayor of La Habra and founder of afterschool educational nonprofit Rosie’s Garage, and Daniel de León —Senior pastor of Templo Calvario, the oldest protestant church serving the Latino community in Orange County, established in Santa Ana in 1925.
Part Two: A Learning Experience in the Heart of Santa Ana
- Our follow-up learning day in Santa Ana began with a welcome from Santa Ana Mayor, Valerie Amezcua at OCCF’s nonprofit shared space building, the Village 17th.
- We next visited the Edward B. Cole Academy where our host, Lee de León, President of Templo Calvario Community Development Corporation, outlined the accomplishments of the school and its programs designed to empower and educate low-to-moderate income communities through a focus on affordable housing, economic development, and educational opportunities.
- We continued our learning at El Centro Cultural de Mexico, a collective space in Santa Ana where residents can find cultural, educational, and artistic activities that strengthen their identities, nurture their talents and develop a sense of community leadership and belonging. Our site hosts included El Centro co-founder Socorro Sarmiento and her husband retired judge Salvador Sarmiento, Board member Dr. Jorge Rodriguez and team members Leo Campos and Gema Suarez.
- El Centro is home to a number of partner organizations including the University of California, Irvine Student Law Clinics led by Professor Annie Lai, who shared about their work at El Centro.
- We next enjoyed a “fireside chat” moderated by Ambassador Gaddi H. Vasquez with Maurice Sanchez, Associate Justice of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, followed by a panel of local business leaders including Reuben Franco, President and CEO of the OC Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Teresa Saldivar, CEO and Founder of Teresa’s Jewelers, and Ana Laura Padilla, Founder and Co-Owner of Perla Mexican Cuisine.Perla Mexican Cuisine.
- Our time in Santa Ana concluded with an unforgettable dinner at Avila’s El Ranchito, one of the most well-known and highly successful family-owned and operated of Mexican restaurants in Orange County. We were generously hosted by Victor Avila, whose Avila’s on 1st Street in Santa Ana was the first Avila’s restaurant in Orange County. We enjoyed great food and even greater conversation with our speakers and hosts, with the addition of several inspiring local nonprofit leaders, including:
- Miguel Hernandez, Orange County Congregation Community Organization
- Lori Ohls, KidWorks
- Carlos Perea, Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice
- Faby Jacome, Orange County Justice Fund
- Georgina Maldonado, Community Health Initiative of OC
The insights from our learnings from the day left us with hearts and minds overflowing with gratitude and optimism about Orange County’s future with its growing and thriving Latino community.
I extend my deepest gratitude to OCCF Board member Ambassador Gaddi H. Vasquez for envisioning, planning and organizing this unparalleled learning experience.
We’d Love to Hear from You!: If you have thoughts about how OCCF can be an effective and impactful supporter of Orange County’s Latino community, or anything else you think we should know as we continue our learning journey, don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.