There are countless groups and individuals upholding Philadelphia’s vital Latino and Hispanic communities. Metro Philadelphia’s Latino Power Players list honors some of those change-makers that make this great community what it is – a proud, collaborative hub of businesses, nonprofits, and public officials putting Philadelphia’s Latino communities on the map. From owners of award-winning restaurants, to CEOs of leading organizations, so many incredible people make Philadelphia’s Latino community the remarkable scene that it is. 

 


By Catriona Ting-Morton

Jennifer Alvarado – Joshua’s Catering

Jennifer Alvarado

Co-Owner, Partner, and Chef, Joshua's Catering

Jennifer Alvarado – Joshua’s Catering

Jennifer Alvarado was born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. She came to the US at six months of age. Her parents inspired her passion for food, so she became a chef by trade, and the co-owner of Joshua’s Catering, a Hispanic, Black, Veteran, and LGBTQ-owned company. They are the exclusive caterer/partner to venues in Philadelphia, such as Bolero Events, Ridgeland Mansion, and Strawberry Mansion. She has been in the industry for over 20 years.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
Our culture and people make the Philadelphia Latino Community unique. Latinos represent accountability, where responsibility is shared. Our people dominate everything we touch. We represent diversity through our food, work ethic, and languages. We are helping to fuel the economy through entrepreneurship and families in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, working toward a better future. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
It is challenging for any business to have a successful starting point, but being a female Latina presents even more hurdles. In Philadelphia, better access to more educational portals would be beneficial. Many Latinos continue to struggle with citizenship relations, so it is important to offer more resources to those who are seeking employment and work. Of course, publishing articles like this and embracing and valuing the Latino community is a crucial form of support.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
I would take someone to the Fishtown/Kensington area by East York Street to Bolero Events, a new venue we are partnering with. The building, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, was one of the first banks to serve blue collar workers. Located in the heart of the Latino community, the Latino-owned businesses surrounding the venue are numerous and diverse. This neighborhood holds the stories of families, work, and achievements gained throughout the years of Latino immigration.

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
My Accelerate Latinx Cohort peers are local heroes to me. The program offered small business owners education resources to apply to our existing businesses. Another is Bethzaida Butler, manager of Norris Square Senior Center, and my mother-in-law. She has dedicated over 20 years to the seniors of the Latino community by offering programs for education, health awareness, and daily activities. Lastly, my children are my heroes. Latino children are the future leaders of our community. 

Danilo Burgo – PA House of Representatives

Danilo Burgos

House Representative, Philadelphia House of Representatives

Danilo Burgo – PA House of Representatives

Danilo Burgos was elected to serve his first term in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in November 2018, representing neighborhoods in North Philadelphia including Kensington, Hunting Park, Glenwood, and Feltonville. He is the first Dominican elected to serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. He is first-generation Hispanic American and was born in New York City. His family moved to Philadelphia in 1990 when he was ten years old.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
Talent and diversity. We are not only athletes, but we are also firefighters, law enforcement, engineers, doctors, artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
Improving on our school’s curriculum so that our children would learn more about entrepreneurship and new industries.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
The Golden Block starting at Centro Musical.

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
Carlos Matos and Alba Martinez.

Sergio Cea – Reclaim Philadelphia

Sergio Cea

Political Director, Reclaim Philadelphia

Sergio Cea – Reclaim Philadelphia

As the son of Chilean immigrants, Sergio Cea’s organizing has been influenced by both the painful history of Chile’s military dictatorship and the resilience of its socialist movements. Agitated by the election of Trump, Sergio found a political home volunteering with Reclaim Philadelphia, a progressive organization focused on reclaiming and building people power for the multiracial working class and working poor in the city. Today he is the organizations’ first Latino Political Director.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
In true Philly fashion, we show up for each other. The Latino community has fought hard to make Philly a Sanctuary City, ended the PARS agreement with ICE, and shut down Berks Detention Center. With the Latino population increasing, I’m excited to see what we can win next.

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
The Latino community has been severely disinvested in when it comes to voter outreach and engagement. If we want Philly Latinos to have decision making power in our local government, beyond one Councilmember and one State Representative, we’re going to need to be intentional and treat these communities with the dignity they deserve. Fighting for expanded language justice will be key to seeing Philly’s Latino communities get a seat at the table.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia is one of my favorite places to hang out, relax, and people watch. It is a community space that welcomes jazz nights, free markets, mutual aid, outdoor theater performances, leftist organizing meetings and political protests. It also has a beautiful mural of the park’s eponymous radical leader and his wife Betty Shabazz.

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
I want to uplift Erika Guadalupe Núñez fighting for immigrant rights with Juntos, as well as Jose de Marco from ACT UP Philly fighting for dignity and care for sex workers, drug users, as well as HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ communities through a Black and Latino lens. I’m also inspired by the campaigns of progressive Latino City Council candidates on the ballot like Andrés Celin running in the 7th District and Erika Almirón running for At-Large.

Rodrigo Cerda – Independence Blue Cross

Rodrigo Cerdá

Senior Vice President of Health Services and Chief Medical Officer, Independence Blue Cross

Rodrigo Cerda – Independence Blue Cross

Rodrigo Cerdá, M.D., MPH, is senior vice president of Health Services and chief medical officer at Independence Blue Cross. He leads Independence’s collaborative efforts to bring health insurers, hospitals, and doctors together to improve access to well-coordinated, high quality, and affordable health care to the region. He is also the company’s chief clinical spokesperson. He is a fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and a member of the American Medical Association, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, and the American College of Physicians.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
Our community is varied and always evolving. Most of the Latino community in this city was born here, so we’re also maturing as a community and evolving what it means to be a Philadelphian. But we’re also growing, with newer immigrants attracted by opportunities, enriching areas like South Philadelphia as they bring new types of food, culture, and more. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
We should continue to embrace and celebrate all that Latinos bring to this community – both from a policy perspective and by supporting great organizations like Congreso de Latinos Unidos, Esperanza, Puentes de Salud, and many others.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
I don’t live in University City, but I have to point out Jezabel’s anyways!  It’s a great Argentinian cafe, and it’s got the right tastes and smells that remind me of being back in Uruguay, where I’m from. 

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
I recently reconnected with Dr. Jack Ludmir, the new Chief Physician Executive at the Temple Women’s Hospital campus. I rotated through his department many years ago as a medical student when he was at Pennsylvania Hospital. I have always admired his ability not just to be a great clinician and teacher, but also to make a transformative impact. He co-founded Puentes de Salud and started other initiatives like Latina Community Health Services. He also shows what it is to use his background of immigrating from Peru as a strength to enable him to better serve his community. 

Rafael Collazo – UnidosUS Action Fund

Rafael Collazo

Executive Director, UnidosUS Action Fund

Rafael Collazo – UnidosUS Action Fund

Rafael Collazo is the executive director of the UnidosUS Action Fund/Action PAC, the political arm of UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino Civil Rights organization. Collazo leads UnidosUS’s campaign and electoral strategies around Latino issue priorities. Collazo also hosts “Found In Translation” and “Bomba Live” podcasts. Mr. Collazo is a child of Hunting Park, who graduated from Roman Catholic High School and Columbia University. He is married to Michelle Collazo and father to Troy and Maxwell.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
We are passionate about our dual identities as both Latinos and Philadelphians. The city’s gritty spirit breeds a loyalty like no other. Philly Latinos yearn to contribute our heritage to that tradition. Philadelphia’s energy drives us to make an impact beyond the city limits. Our artists, entrepreneurs and leaders are recognized for their excellence worldwide. We strive to represent our Philly Soul with a Latin flair. It’s a dynamic combination. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
Latino youth deserve to know the pride they should have in their rich cultures. The story of Philly Latinos is of perseverance: our pioneers came here not knowing the language and experiencing incredible racism. Despite the obstacles, they raised families and built communities with dignity. Our youth need to know there is nothing they can’t do. They are built for this. 

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
I would take them to Hunting Park on a summer weekend. I grew up there watching my grandfather’s adult baseball team and eating Puerto Rican street food. The park gives Puerto Ricans/Latinos a space to build friendships and express our culture like we did in our native lands. It’s where my love for community bloomed. The family picnics, people watching, and domino games are puro Philly.  

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
The true heroes of this story are my mother Sonia and my grandmother Lydia. They had the courage to leave Puerto Rico to search for a better life. Abuela instilled in my father Ray Collazo dreams that led him to become a local Latin broadcast pioneer. And what can I say about my mother Sonia? A tremendous woman of character that instills in her three sons a foundation of faith, family y patria. Orgullo Boricua!

Jimmy Contreras – JPMorgan Chase

Jimmy Contreras

Vice President, U.S. Regional Communications, JPMorgan Chase

Jimmy Contreras – JPMorgan Chase

Jimmy Contreras is a creative strategist and storyteller. He is a lead communicator with comprehensive experience in shaping and protecting corporate image that promotes business, values, and mission. Highly skilled in lifestyle branding with launching fashion, hospitality, destination brands, and cultural institutions through thoughtful communications, marketing, and social media campaigns. Committed volunteer and board member for organizations promoting arts and culture, improving underserved communities, and minority-owned businesses in the Greater Philadelphia region.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
The Philadelphia Latino community is a melting pot, with representation from all of Latin America. This creates a rich culture with many beautiful traditions, flavors, and music.

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
The Latino community must first support each other, before asking what others can do for them. Whether you’re Dominican, Columbian, Mexican or Puerto Rican, we are stronger together. Collectively, we can demand more for our community, including: home ownership, better health benefits, education, and opportunities. As for how the local community can support Latinos, simple: buy, sell, hire, promote, engage, and listen.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
I live in Collingswood, New Jersey, but most recently lived in South Philadelphia. I love South Philly and its vibrant Mexican community. The first two stops I make when crossing the bridge are at Cafeteria y Panaderia Las Rosas for a concha and champurrado, followed by tacos at South Philly Barbacoa! The best of Mexico here in Philadelphia.

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
My local Latino heroes are small business owners and entrepreneurs in the region. These idealists work hard everyday providing a service and/or products to the communities they serve. From a local bodega, restaurant, hair salon, small construction company, to specialized contractors, these Latinos represent an incredible fast-growing workforce in Philadelphia and beyond.

 

Diana Cortes – City of Philadelphia Law Department

Diana Cortes

City Solicitor and General Counsel, City of Philadelphia Law Department

Diana Cortes – City of Philadelphia Law Department

Diana Cortes serves as General Counsel to the Mayor, City Council, all City departments, and Philadelphia’s elected offices. She manages the Law Department, a 330+ person organization, with the following legal practice areas: federal, state, and local agency litigation, commercial and real estate transactions, tax, regulatory law, social services, and legislation. Diana’s goals include: advising and furthering police reform, challenging unconstitutional firearm preemption laws, and increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion within the Law Department.  

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
The Latino/Latinx community is like Philadelphia as a city: it is smaller than New York, but a mighty force. It is a tight, close-knit community that is invested and growing its power, leverage, and influence within Philadelphia and the country. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
There should be a better understanding that the Latino/Latinx community is not a monolith.  Meaningful support and engagement must meet the needs of the different groups within Philadelphia’s Latino/Latinx community.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
Nuñez – the bodega at 16th and Christian. Maria, the owner, and all who work there, remind me of my family in North Jersey and from Costa Rica. With warmth, friendliness, and familiarity, we converse in Spanish. No matter what kind of mood I’m in when I walk in, I leave with a smile.     

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez, and Judges Juan R. Sánchez and Luis Felipe Restrepo are my local heroes. Councilmember Sánchez reached out to me immediately upon learning that Mayor Kenney appointed me City Solicitor, the first Latina City Solicitor in Philadelphia. She provided mentoring and guidance to me during the City Council confirmation process. Judges Sánchez and Restrepo have supported and mentored me throughout my legal career. They provided me with amazing opportunities and incredible advice.   

Francisco-Cortes-–-Familia_-Trans-Queer-Liberation-Movement-

Francisco Cortes

Co-Executive Director, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement

Francisco-Cortes-–-Familia_-Trans-Queer-Liberation-Movement-

Francisco Cortes is a community activist and award winning leader. A Mexican immigrant and gay Philadelphian, Francisco is the current co-executive director of Familia:Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a LGBT immigrant rights organization, working at the local and national level to achieve the collective liberation of trans, queer, and gender nonconforming Latinxs through building community, organizing, advocacy and education. Francisco previously served as the executive director of GALAEI, a queer Latinx social justice organization in Philadelphia, and served for the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs. Francisco serves as a board member at Juntos.

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
The Philadelphia Latino community is unique because of our diversity and resilience. The tenacious work of Philadelphia Latinos makes us a power player in the city. Philadelphia has a rich history of incorporating Latino’s culture, from the Mexican and central American community in South Philly to the Puerto Rican community in North Philly, Latinos play a vital role in the diversity and influence of Philadelphia.

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
While Latinos have existed and had representation in the city for generations, there is still room to grow representation in leadership roles throughout the city. The number of Latinos in city hall and in other city leadership positions under-represents the diversity of the Latino community.  Having more representation will support the beauty of our city of brotherly love.

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
Being in South Philly, I would definitely take someone on a tour up and down the diverse business on 9th street. There are delicious authentic Mexican and central American restaurants and coffee shops in south philly. South Philly BBQ is a must visit, but go early because the tacos go fast!

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
Gloria Casarez is a Philadelphia icon I look up to. A North Philadelphian Puerto Ricana, Gloria worked relentlessly to bring representation and support to the latino community in Philadelphia. Advocating for housing for LGBT youth and other marginalized latinos, Gloria served as the Executive Director for the Mayor’s Office on LGBT Affairs under Mayor Nutter, and advocated for more resources for Latinos throughout the city. While she passed away in 2014, her legacy and impact continues to influence Latinos all over the city.

Reverend Luis Cortés Jr.

Founder, President, and CEO, Esperanza

Reverend Luis Cortés founded Esperanza in 1986, with support from the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia.  Today, with an extensive national network of Hispanic faith and community-based organizations, Esperanza is one of the leading voices for Latinos in America. Leading what began as a local initiative, with programs targeted to address the unmet needs of Philadelphia’s Latino community, Rev. Cortés is now sought by national and international leaders on issues of economic and workforce development, housing, immigration, and education. Under his leadership, Esperanza has grown from a 20-person operation to more than 450 employees and a $43 million annual operating budget.

Iveliz Crespo – Reed Smith

Iveliz Crespo

Senior Global DEI Advisor, Reed Smith

Iveliz Crespo – Reed Smith

Iveliz R. Crespo is Reed Smith’s Senior Global DEI Advisor. Iveliz joined Reed Smith after serving as the City of Philadelphia Law Department’s first-ever director of DEI, where they had the unique opportunity to both develop and implement large-scale diversity programming. Iveliz has an extensive background developing and facilitating DEI training for a wide range of audiences, including law students, clients, government officials, judges, nonprofits, and law firms. 

What makes the Philadelphia Latino community unique?
The diversity of the community is something that I love. People from all countries, races, and walks of life make the community so vibrant. I also think the community is very much civically engaged, and the mobilizing and grass roots work driven by many Latino led community groups makes Philly stand out from other cities. 

What more do you think could be done to support the Latino community in Philadelphia?
I think we need immigration reform and a focus on legislation designed to uplift the community – like drivers license reform and workers rights. 

If you were taking someone on a tour of your neighborhood, what would be your first stop?
I live in Port Richmond and my go to spot is Nemi – a Latino owned and operated Mexican restaurant. They employ a lot of Latino workers and act as a community hub.

Do you have any local Latino heroes you look up to?
Diana Cortes, City Solicitor of Philadelphia, and first Latina to hold that role. I also think it’s important to highlight people like Teresa Rodriguez (who inspired me to champion workers rights); Julia Lopez, partner at Reed Smith and a trusted mentor; and the late Gloria Casarez, who I never had the privilege to meet, but served as Philadelphia’s first director of LGBTQ affairs and made it possible for me to be authentically me.