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El Centro de la Raza

Texto en español.

In October 1972, a group of visionary activists peacefully took over the vacant, dilapidated Beacon Hill Elementary School. In the early 1970s, Seattle’s relatively small Latino population began to expand with new immigrants, some fleeing political persecution and some simply seeking a better life. The abrupt closure of the Chicano: English and Adult Basic Education Program at South Seattle Community College left many recent arrivals out in the cold, without a means of learning English, of integrating into a new society. Roberto Maestas, a local teacher and civil rights advocate, had been recruited to run that South Seattle program. Maestas and others led the 1972 occupation, which lasted for 3 months and ended with the City of Seattle finally leasing the building for $1 per year for the creation of a new community center, El Centro de la Raza, Spanish for “The Center for the People of All Races,” the organization has grown into a major hub of social services and civil rights advocacy. Estela Ortega is the Director.

Mural “Explosion of Chicano Creativity,” by Daniel Desiga (1972).

Originally painted during the 1972 occupation and more recently restored and expanded, this mural was painted by Daniel DeSiga, an artist originally from Walla Walla, WA. It represents the blending of the Pacific Northwest and Mexican Aztec heritage, with references to farmworkers’ struggles and labor rights.

Several other murals are also inside the building, including, “La Calavera,” also inside the building. This was painted by Esteban Villa in 1973.


1938 image of the Beacon Hill School, where El Centro is now

source King County Assessor

2018 exterior image of El Centro

2018 detail image of the mural by D. DeSiga at El Centro