La Alianza Hispana was begun in 1968 by Ana Maria Rodríguez, teacher of English as a second language at the Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Noticing the impoverished conditions of her Latino students, Rodríguez, along with fellow teacher Betsy Tregar, started meeting at Denison House in Roxbury with Latino parents to begin addressing their needs. The group they formed was known as the Spanish Alliance.
In 1969 Hubie Jones, then director of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center (RMSC), a social service agency primarily serving the African American community, hired Frieda Garcia as an outreach worker to the Latino community of Roxbury. Garcia learned about the Spanish Alliance and brought it to the attention of Jones. With support from Roxbury Multi-Service Center for a separate Latino-run organization, La Alianza Hispana incorporated in 1970 to begin addressing the most pressing needs of the Latino community of Roxbury and North Dorchester, which had been identified as education and employment training, and housing. With Garcia as its first director and Rodriguez as its first president, La Alianza Hispana began formal operations that same year launching a summer youth recreation program as its first service. La Alianza Hispana applied for and received funding from Boston's Model Cities Administration in 1971, which allowed the agency to expand its operations and services.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Latino community of Boston became very active in the city's civic, social, and political life. Primarily residing in the South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester, Latinos began organizing to advocate for their civil rights and access to social services. La Alianza Hispana was the first Latino organization of the Roxbury/North Dorchester area of Boston. In the South End, other advocacy and service agencies were formed, including Emergency Tenants Council, which later became Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) ; El Centro del Cardenal, a Catholic charity organization; and the Association to Promote the Civil Rights of the Spanish Speaking (APCROSS). From its inception, La Alianza Hispana has been a multi-service organization, offering a variety of programs to meet the needs of its service community. La Alianza Hispana has been a springboard for the creation of other community organizations in its neighborhood, including Casa Esperanza, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), and Nuestra Comunidad Community Development Corporation. La Alianza Hispana teamed with Nuestra and Bohio Development Corporation to form Bohio Limited Partnership, a multi-family housing development project begun in 1983 in Roxbury. Other La Alianza Hispana business ventures include the Business Development Program (1991), designed to promote entrepreneurial development in the Latino community. The agency has also been a training ground for leaders of the Boston Latino community including Nelson Merced, La Alianza Hispana's Executive Director, 1981 to 1985, who became the first Latino to serve as a Massachusetts state representative (1988-1992).
Established in 1972, the Education Department currently provides courses to adult students in English as a Second Language (ESL), Spanish Literacy, General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test preparation in Spanish, and computer training. The Employment and Training Department, which became a separate department on July 1, 1997, currently provides vocational training through its ACCESO Technology Resource Center.
Education Department grew out of the Mothers Tutoring Mothers program (ca. 1971-1975), a home-based language instruction program. The Department offered courses in English as a Second Language (1972-present) and Spanish as a Second Language (1972-1975). The Spanish Literacy program (1972-present), which is comprised of the Pre-General Equivalency Diploma program and the General Equivalency Diploma program, was the first in the Boston area to offer preparatory instruction for the General Equivalency Diploma exam in Spanish.
At the same time that it was developing its educational programs, the Department began offering vocational training programs (197?- present), including the AVANCE program, designed to increase access for Latinos to jobs in hospitals and health and human services, and the Assisted Placement program (1991-present), a job placement program for welfare recipients. The IBM Job Training Center (1993-1995) provided computer training, job counseling, and job placement. The Center was later revived as the ACCESO Technology Resource Center (1997-present), which is today the Employment and Training department within the agency.
Latino Family Counseling Center
The Latino Family Counseling Center was established in 1997 as a result of La Alianza Hispana's organizational restructuring. The Latino Family Counseling Center provides counseling services for children, adolescents, and adults. These services include substance abuse, mental health, and sexual abuse counseling; mentor services; family support services such as family reunification, family counseling; and a support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth and their families.
Prior to the formation of the Latino Family Counseling Center, the mental health, counseling, and advocacy components existed as separate departments. The Mental Health Department administered Alianza Familiar Mental Health Clinic, Boston's first Latino state-licensed outpatient mental health clinic (1985-?); Casa Primavera (1989-1997), the only psycho-social mental health facility of its kind at the time in the U.S. for Latinos; and a substance abuse counseling program (ca. 1982-present). The Counseling and Advocacy program went through several departmental name incarnations including Master Service Unit, Counseling and Advocacy Department, Family Services, Social Services, and Community Health. These departments also offered services that are no longer offered by La Alianza Hispana including Adoption and Foster Care (1984-1994), Home Ownership and Rehabilitation Program (1976-1987), Acceso (ca. 1986-ca. 1988), a legal referral program, and Voter Registration (1976-1977).
Public Health Unit
The Public Health Unit was formed in 1990 as a result of La Alianza Hispana's organizational restructuring. Its predecessor was the Community Health Project which was previously administered by one of the various departments offering services in counseling and advocacy. The Public Health Unit now focuses on AIDS education and health awareness issues. It also administers a peer-education program, Latino Youth 2000 (1995-present).
The Elder Services department began in 1977 as a result of advocacy efforts of a group of Latino elders who met at La Alianza Hispana and eventually formed Los Aliancianos Unidos. In 1990, the two elder programs were reorganized and consolidated into a separate department within the agency. The mission of the department is to provide elders with services that will enable them to lead productive lives while overcoming language and cultural barriers. The department administers two programs: Aliancianos Social Club (Senior 'Drop In' Center) and Adult Day Health Center. The Senior Center provides companionship, networking among Latino elders, individual and group counseling, education, recreation, and referral services. The Adult Day Health Center provides services to elders in need of medical supervision and assistance (provided by a registered nurse) as well as educational and recreational programs.
Youth Development Unit
The Youth Development Unit was established in 1978 to integrate and expand La Alianza Hispana's youth programs. Prior to 1978, La Alianza Hispana employed a Youth Advocate through its education component. The youth programs focus on three areas: children's services, counseling and advocacy, and education. Current programs of the Youth Development Unit consist of an after school and tutoring program for middle school-aged children, street outreach to Roxbury and North Dorchester teens, the Mariana Bracetti Summer Camp, and Blacktop, a summer basketball program for teens.
The Youth Development Unit served children ages 6 through 12 with its Mariana Bracetti programs, named after a 19th century woman active in the fight for Puerto Rico's freedom from Spain. The Mariana Bracetti After School Program was a licensed child care program that operated from 1978 to 1992. The Mariana Bracetti Summer Camp (1977-present) began as a collaboration between La Alianza Hispana and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción in the South End (IBA). It is currently operated solely by La Alianza Hispana and runs out of Hale Reservation in Westwood, Massachusetts with the support of Newton Community Services Center. A predecessor to the summer camp was Alianza Hispana Organizacion Recreo y Actividades (AHORA), a summer teen recreation program that was the first program La Alianza Hispana offered in 1970.
The Youth Development Unit also provided counseling services for teens. Search of Self (ca. 1982-ca. 1994) was a substance abuse intervention and prevention program that used recreational activities such as karate classes and sports leagues as part of their curriculum. In the 1990s, the Search of Self program also educated Latino youth about health issues such as teen pregnancy and AIDS. These health-related topics are now dealt with by the Latino Youth 2000 component of the Public Health Unit. The Youth Development Unit also administered the I Can program (1984-ca. 1992), which provided adolescent counseling and advocacy through individual and group therapy. The primary educational component of the Youth Development Unit was Say Yes to You (1987-1992), an alternative education program for teens focusing on General Equivalency Diploma test preparation, English as a Second Language courses, and vocational and educational counseling. Say Yes to You was preceded by ASK (1977-1980), which became the Pre-Vocational Education Project in 1980. This was originally a collaboration with Casa del Sol, which operated the Spanish component of the education program. In 1992 the Say Yes to You Program was transferred to the Education Department. Other education programs run by the Youth Development Unit included Open Doors, a pre-General Equivalency Diploma remedial education program, and Nuevos Horizontes, a two-year pilot program in dropout prevention operated in conjunction with the Ecumenical Social Action Committee (ESAC) in 1987. The Youth Development Unit also ran a tutoring program that worked closely with the Boston Public Schools. In the early 1980s it was known as Supplementary Education for Hispanic Youth (SEHY).
Throughout its existence, the Youth Development Unit has been an advocate for Latino youth in the Boston Public Schools. In the early 1970s, La Alianza Hispana ran Parent Training Workshops for Latino parents with students in the public schools. The agency's school advocate worked with the Boston Latin and Martin Luther King Schools during desegregation, organizing parents and evaluating desegregation efforts in the 1970s. La Alianza Hispana was also involved in vocational education committees of the Boston Public Schools in the 1970s through 1990s.
The Youth Development Unit also administered two annual events in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Three Kings Day event began in 1977 as a neighborhood celebration of the Epiphany, a holiday observed in Latino culture. In 1986 this event was moved to the Strand Theater in Dorchester, Massachusetts and involved musical and dramatic performances along with the traditional distribution of gifts to registered children. The final Three Kings Day celebration was held in 1989. In the summer of 1982, the Youth Development Unit sponsored its first Youth Festival, which took place annually until 1985. In 1986 the agency sponsored a Multicultural Youth Week. These events were often administered by the Youth Development Unit's cultural arts program, which operated informally until 1987 when the program received outside funding and became a component of the Youth Development Unit and the agency.
Today, La Alianza Hispana continues to offer a range of linguistically appropriate, culturally competent services in the following areas: education, public health, youth, employment and training, elders, counseling, and community empowerment. The agency is dedicated to 'combating the effects of poverty, discrimination and the stresses of migration,' advocating for 'equal access to basic resources,' and promoting 'self-reliance, competence, and participation.' While it continues to focus its services on the Latino population of Boston, La Alianza Hispana also serves individuals from diverse cultures who make Roxbury and North Dorchester areas of Boston their home.