[Return to the Table of Contents]

Register of the Records of



15 ft.

MSS 117


Gail E. Farr

April 1994

Processing and cataloguing of this collection were supported in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.


The Latino Project was a non-profit legal assistance and public-advocacy organization which provided representation to Spanish-speaking groups and interests in the Greater Philadelphia area.  The project had its inception at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), an umbrella organization which advocated in a number of areas of public interest law.  In 1976 PILCOP obtained a twoyear grant from the Samuel S. Fels Fund to develop legal services for the Spanish-speaking community in Philadelphia.  The program was headed by Luis P. Diaz, Esquire.  Diaz was graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law (J.D., 1976) and formerly a businessman and community worker on New York's Lower East Side.

Much of the early work done by the Law Center's Latino Project focused on assisting Hispanics whose civil rights had been violated.  As Diaz explained in a 1977 brochure, the organization

    "advocates for Hispanics in situations where employers have discriminated against themfiring, hiring, promoting, etc.  We also advocate for Hispanics who are being discriminated against, being excluded or denied participation by a public or private agency, or program service that receives federal monies.  Simply, we want Hispanics to have their 'fair share.'"  [Latino Project, Informational leaflet, c. 1977]

The Latino Project was particularly concerned with protecting and developing employment opportunities in the public and private sectors under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbade job discrimination on the basis of national origin.  The Project also provided legal representation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which forbade the exclusion of Latinos from participating in any federally assisted program and required such programs to affirmatively benefit Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-speaking people.  Additionally, the program sought to improve public services to the Spanish-speaking through schools and other social agencies.

In one of his first activities as Project head, Diaz prepared a specially edited version of the 1976 manual on federal domestic programs which specifically pinpointed programs that could be utilized directly by community-based non-profit organizations.  Subsidized by funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs, the project was designed to help community-based organizations serving Spanish-speaking communities throughout the state gain direct access to federally-funded programs.

Soon the Latino Project became involved in a series of investigations focusing on the under-representation of Latinos in Philadelphia city agencies including the police department and the federally-funded CETA job training program.  The Project achieved victory in a 1977 case in which the city was allegedly blocking funds for hiring Hispanic personnel for a bilingual early intervention program for children.  The Latino Project negotiated a settlement between public officials and the Associación Puertorriqueños en Marcha (the only Latino advocacy organization in the field of mental health and mental retardation in Philadelphia) which won provision based on legal entitlement for staffing the intervention program with Spanish-speaking personnel.

In 1978 Diaz secured additional foundation grants to continue the work of the Latino Project.  The first of these was a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation to further the organization's use of such strategies as litigation, research, and community organizational techniques to affect social change.  The Clark funds enabled the Project to pursue employment discrimination work on behalf of Puerto Ricans and Latinos, particularly in three designated program areas: (1) Bilingual Education; (2) Mental Health and Mental Retardation; and (3) Jobs and Training.  Later that year, the Latino Project received an award from the Campaign for Human Development to address unlawful discrimination against Hispanics in situations involving employment, training, education, and health services.  The Campaign for Human Development was an anti-poverty action program sponsored by the United States Catholic Conference.

The grant funds were also used to establish the Latino Project as an independent organization with its own advisory board.  Members included Anthony Arce, M.D., director of the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center (chair); Guillermo Salas, Jr., Nelson Malave, and Manuel Silva, who were associated with the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia; Angel Ortiz; Linda Melendez, a Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital social worker; and other Puerto Rican and Latino community leaders.  The board also included non-Hispanics such as Father Thomas Craven, head of Casa del Carmen, a Catholic social agency located in North Central Philadelphia, and the public-interest lawyer, Edward V. Sparer.

Funding from the Clark Foundation and from Campaign for Human Development continued through March 1981.  By that time, Diaz had founded a new organization.  This new group was more explicitly designed to improve the socio-economic condition of Puerto Ricans and Latinos.  Diaz explained his motivations as follows:

    "The [Latino] Project's roots were in public interest law as the ultimate form of advocacy.  The deeper [the Project] became involved in Hispanic issues, the more acute became its awareness of the limitations of litigation as a tool for social change.  Yet, [the Project's] research and advocacy role over the last five years have put it in a unique position of analyzing how the mainstream systems work and fail with regard to the Hispanic community, and of identifying what the deficiencies in our own community are vis-à-vis that mainstream.  The next logical steps from that vantage point were the design and implementation of plans that incorporated its analysis."

One reason for Diaz's decision to broaden his work beyond the sphere of public interest law was the difficulty of establishing under-representation because of faulty or incomplete figures on the Latino population.  Historically, Puerto Ricans and Latinos have been under-counted in the national census because of migration between home countries and the United States.  Thus, although, as Diaz put it, Latinos had a statutorily mandated right to their fair share of every federal revenue sharing dollar and every social program dollar granted to the City of Philadelphia, cases of actual discrimination in the distribution of funds were hard to prove.  In 1979, the Latino Project resolved to remedy the census undercounts by joining with other Latino organizations to form the Hispanics for an Accurate Survey Coalition to sponsor an independent survey of the Latino population in designated North Philadelphia census tracts.  Another coalition member, the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia, was actually responsible for overseeing the survey which was conducted by National Analysts, Philadelphia, in November-December 1979.  Luis Diaz served on the survey steering committee.

The transition of project staff from public interest law to socioeconomic development issues continued in 1980-81, when the Latino Project, with the help of foundation funds, embarked on an ambitious national study of community economic development.  The study provided the framework for establishing the Hispanic Federation for Social and Economic Development in 1981 [Luis P. Diaz, "Spawning the 'Hispanic Federation for Social and Economic Development'," 9 April 1981, pp. 23].

As the catalyst organization, the Latino Project played an initial role in providing funding and support staff, transition staff hiring and training, research and expertise developed in economic development, and advocacy for the Hispanic Federation.  Diaz retained the title of executive director of the Latino Project but shifted most of his time and energy to the Federation.  Several other Latino Project staff including Larry Rivera-Gonzalez and Julio Barreto, Jr., left the Project to help Diaz in establishing the Federation where they continued doing survey research and community organization work they had begun with the Project.  The Latino Project was largely dormant by 1984 when the Hispanic Federation ceased operation.  The Latino Project was not revitalized when the Hispanic Federation closed.  Luis Diaz later reestablished himself with a law firm in New York City.


These materials were found among records accessioned from the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia in 1988.  They were formally donated to the Balch Institute through a deed of gift from Luis P. Diaz, Esq., in 1993.


These holdings consist of the files of the Latino Project from the mid-1970s through 1982.  The collection contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes, grant applications, clippings, newsletters, and other items pertaining to the work of the project and its executive director, Luis P. Diaz, Esq., advisory board, and staff.  Of special interest are legal case files and court proceedings documenting a number of discrimination cases involving the employment of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in Philadelphia including Alvarez v. City of Philadelphia (1977-83) which concerned the under-representation of Latinos in the city police department.  The files also reflect the organization's interests in bilingual education, expanding educational and employment opportunities for Hispanics, and in improving delivery of general health care and mental health care services to Spanish-speaking clients.


Please see archivist for further information as noted.


The following paragraphs describe the scope and content of the collection at the series levels:

Series 1:  Administrative Records, 1973-1985, Boxes 1-9:

General Administrative Records, 1976-1984 (Box 1) contain general information about the formation, goals, and management of the Latino Project from 1976-1984.  General information about the parent agency, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, is also located here.  Folders 3-4 contain a small lot of Luis Diaz's correspondence and miscellaneous notes from his years as executive director of the Latino Project.  Two papers dealing with Philadelphia's Latinos which Diaz presented at the Community Needs and Resources Seminar sponsored by the Center for Philadelphia Studies, the Community Services Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Fellowship Commission, and the Pennsylvania Economy League in 1980 are found in Folders 5-6.  Of special interest to students of public interest law are Folders 7-9 (staff correspondence and minutes) which provide insight into the internal dynamics of a legal advocacy organization involved in the area of minority rights.  Minutes of staff meetings from 1979 document the growth of the staff to include Arthur M. Colby (temporary assistant staff attorney), Socorro Rivera, and Gualberto Medina, and broadening interests.  Minutes detail collection of information about delivery of health care services for Hispanics, some of which was intended for use in the Martinez v. Harris case; meetings with the Hispanic Health Care Coalition; litigation strategies; and the creation of new staff positions (a community organizer and a social scientist).  Folder 10 contains the "Manual on Domestic Programs for Community Organizations" prepared by Diaz in 1976-77.  Clippings about the project and matters of concern to its staff are filed in Folder 11.

Funding Applications, 1977-1981:  Box 2 contains of drafts and final versions of grant applications.

Administrative Files (Alphabetical), 1973-1985:  Boxes 3-6 are made of topical files pertaining to the business of the Latino Project.  Included are materials pertaining to routine business transactions as well as files set up by Latino Project staff to serve as an inhouse resource on Latino rights.  Among these materials are mailing lists for numerous Hispanic agencies, organizations, contractors, and vendors; brochures and leaflets about the organizations and their programs; and correspondence detailing the work of these groups.  Approximately half of the resource files concern public or private, not-for-profit organizations in Philadelphia; approximately onefourth concern state agencies in Pennsylvania focusing on issues of the Spanish-speaking; and the remaining files document developments in advocacy rights for Latinos through organizations operating at the national level or in other parts of the country.  The contents document bilingual education; social, medical, and mental health services for Latinos; educational and employment opportunities for the Spanish-speaking; information about Latino studies courses in Philadelphia-area college and universities; and the status of Latinos in the legal profession.  (Researchers are advised that additional printed items on such organizations have been transferred to the Balch Institute Library collection.  See Appendix to this register).

Personnel Records, 1977-80 (Boxes 7-9):  Please see archivist regarding restrictions on access to these holdings.

Series 2:  Legal Case Files.  1962-1981.  Boxes 10-14:  This series contains materials pertaining to litigation handled by the Latino Project.  Most of the litigation represented here involved cases of job discrimination.  The files include correspondence, notes, transcripts of court proceedings, exhibits, copies of expert testimony, and other documents relating to cases from 1976-83.  Although the bulk of the items date from this period, the files also contain some retrospective material which was collected in the course of investigations.  Box 7, for instance, contains a folder of photocopies of items pertaining to Title VII which appeared in the Federal Register and elsewhere; the earliest is a photocopy of a 1962 article on "Discovery and Use of an Adverse Party's Expert Information."

Rosado v. Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board, 1978-79 (Box 10) concerns the case of a city Department of Public Health worker who was denied unemployment compensation after losing his job.  Testimony revealed that the man was fired when he failed to return from vacation by a designated date and suggested that the worker's delay was brought about by travel difficulties on the airline he was using to make a return trip from a visit to Puerto Rico.  Alvarez v. City of Philadelphia, 1962-83 (Boxes 11-12) deal with a case filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in December 1977, which charged that the city was violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which forbade discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, or national origin.  The complaint originated in a 1975 case involving Puerto Rican applicants for employment in the Philadelphia Police Department and focused on testing procedures used by the city in screening candidates.  Documentation on Lopez v. City of Philadelphia filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1979), which also concerns police hiring practices, is found in Box 12, as are three folders concerning Martinez v. Harris (1979-81), in which the Latino Project tried to negotiate a settlement with the Spring Garden Clinic on behalf of "a number of Hispanic individuals" who claimed hardship in receiving the delivery of the range of health care services available under the Health Services Act, due, in part, to the loss of bilingual personnel at the clinic and the under-representation of Latinos on the clinic's board.  Materials pertaining to Luis Diaz's application to the National Bar Association/Equal Employment Opportunity Fund project to obtain funding to pay plaintiffs' costs in three cases bringing charges against the Philadelphia police department for discriminatory hiring practices are found in Box 13.  The Fund was a loan program which had been created by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay plaintiffs' costs in Title VII litigation and was administered by the National Bar Association.

Series 3:  Program Files.  1972-1982.  Boxes 15-22:  Series 3 contains materials on topics of major interest to the Latino Project.  Included are correspondence, memoranda, notes, reports, and newsletters dealing with Employment (Boxes 15-16); Bilingual Education and Access to Educational Opportunities (Boxes 17-20); Mental Health and Mental Retardation (Box 21); and related interests including credit unions, housing, welfare rights, and information on Mexican Americans (Box 22).

Employment, 1972-1982, Boxes 15-16:  Of special note are the materials pertaining to investigations of hiring practices in Philadelphia's CETA program in the mid-1970s (Box 15).  Included are files of material collected by PILCOP attorneys as well as by staff of the Latino Project who built on information gathered by the parent organization after the Latino Project's founding in 1976.  Folder 8 contains correspondence between Paul Levy of PILCOP and officers of the U.S. Department of Labor including requests for disclosures of information "of the 'review' which your office did of the Philadelphia CETA program" earlier that year (1975) and numerous clippings about this wellpublicized Labor Department probe of federal job training programs which targeted a number of cities including Philadelphia.  Folders 17 contain files assembled by the Latino Project including an analysis of the number and types of jobs funded under the City of Philadelphia's CETA Title II proposal, listed by department or agency (1976), grant applications of the City of Philadelphia Area Manpower Planning Council which administered CETA funds, estimates of the under-representation of Spanish-speaking participants in CETA Title I and II jobs, and a copy of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973 which authorized the establishment of CETA programs.

Bilingual Education, 1970-1979, Boxes 17-20:  These materials are also of substantial interest.  Box 17, Folders 1-5 (1975-1978) include reports prepared by Juan Laureda who was employed by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia in the summer of 1976 to prepare an analysis of public spending for bilingual education in Pennsylvania. Included are Laureda's memoranda to Luis Diaz on this research as well as information pertaining to Laureda's findings concerning bilingual projects funded under ESEA (the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act) in the School District of Philadelphia.  Folder 5 concerns the complaint filed by the Education Law Center (Philadelphia) against the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the School District of Philadelphia for violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Folders 6-7 concern the Bilingual Education Task Force of Philadelphia in which Juan Laureda and Francisco D. de la Torre of the Latino Project are listed among the members.  Participants also included Anita A. Cava of the New York University School of Law who prepared a paper on "The Right to Bilingual Education and Strategies for Advocacy in Philadelphia" (1976), a copy of which is found here.

Additionally, the folders contain documents regarding the Lau v. Nichola case which Laureda collected from the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Labor. Specifically, the materials concern DHEW's "Lau Compliance Effort" regarding the Supreme Court's 1974 ruling in a case originating in California which held that the failure of a school system to provide special assistance to students who did not speak English denied them a meaningful opportunity to participate in the public education program and was thus a violation of regulations and guidelines issued by the Secretary of DHEW pursuant to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Most of the Lau compliance materials found here date from 1975-76.  However, there is also 1970 memo from the DHEW dealing with Title VI rulings with respect to Spanish-surnamed children.

Mental Health and Mental Retardation, 1973-1979, Box 21:  These materials reflect the work of the Latino Project in advocating for community mental health services for the Spanish-speaking, especially through the addition of bilingual personnel in service agencies.  Folders 1-2 contain correspondence and notes documenting Luis Diaz's interest in securing federal and private foundation grant funds to support such programs.  This box also contains correspondence and meetings of minutes of the City of Philadelphia Office of Mental Health/Mental Retardation's Hispanic Task Force (1977-78), of which Diaz was a member, and various reports and printed matter from organizations such as the Mental Health Law Project, Washington, D.C. (1973) and the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center (1975), the Education Law Center, Philadelphia (1979).

Series 4:  Health Care Delivery Survey Records, 1974-1981.  Boxes 23-27:  These materials concern the Latino Project's efforts to survey the extent of Hispanic health service needs in the Philadelphia area in 1980-81.  Box 23 contains drafts of grant proposals developed by Larry R. Rivera-Gonzalez, a social worker who became the administrative assistant to the Latino Project around this time.  As these files show, Rivera obtained authorization from ACTION, Region III (Philadelphia) to employ federally-funded VISTA workers in a survey of health care needs and problems through a household sample focusing on five census tracts in North Philadelphia.  Box 24 documents the work of the project year from November 1980-October 1981.  It includes staff correspondence; materials describing recruitment, training, and work completed by VISTA staff; questionnaires and tabulations of data; and minutes of the Hispanic Coalition for Better Health Services, a community group which was affiliated with the health survey.

Box 25 contains the files of Julio Barreto, Jr., a social work student who supervised the work of the VISTA staff in 1980-81.  Boxes 26-27 are made up of general reference files compiled by survey project staff on health care needs among Latinos.

Series 5:  Hispanics for an Accurate Survey Coalition Records.  1964-1981.  Boxes 28-29:  These files contain material about the Hispanic population survey including correspondence, lists of contributors, proposals, questionnaires, and reports submitted by the National Analysts survey team, 1979-80.  Additionally, there are several prints of a videotape about the survey produced around 1980.


Aspira of Pennsylvania, Inc. Records, 1969-1990.  (Unprocessed).  Balch Institute Library.

Diaz, Nelson A., Esq. Papers.  (Unprocessed).  Balch Institute Library.

Hispanic Federation for Social and Economic Development Records, 1973-1985.  MSS 116.  Balch Institute Library.

Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia Records, 1970-1988.  MSS 114.  Balch Institute Library.

The box list of the register of the records of The Latino Project is forty-four pages long.