The Multicultural Center was founded in July 1968 as the Hispanic Civic Center of Danbury by a group of Hispanics, mostly Puerto Ricans, who wanted to preserve their traditions and language and pass it on to the next generation. It began as a cultural center for the Latino community. The group met in St. Anthony’s Church, where they had classes to teach children their parent’s language and customs. The goals of the agency were:
"The encouragement of the culture, fraternity, and mutual assistance of its members as well as the sponsoring of social and sporting activties, with special attention and emphasis on the furtherance of the Hispanic Cultural of its members"
At that time, Danbury’s Hispanic population was about 3,000, composed primarily of Puerto Ricans. In the 1970s, the center’s name was changed to Hispanic Cultural Society of Danbury
As the size of the community increased, its needs changed. Many of the new immigrants did not speak English and needed to know how to function in a new society as well as what was available to them. The mission of the Center changed with the population, the center evolved into a social-service agency. The focus of the center was on teaching English and helping Spanish-speaking adults earn high school diplomas. In the 70s, among other programs, the Center began to offer summer programs for children. Its primary mission became to integrate Spanish speaking people into the broader community, to help people become self-sufficient and progress. In 1993, the center was renamed the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury, reflecting the agency’s growth in its mission and that it was no longer only a cultural center, but a social service agency.
The Center grew much in the 1990’s. Its expanded role in the community was a direct result of the increase in the population that it served. From 1992 to 2001, Danbury was Connecticut’s fastest growing city. In 1990, Hispanics comprised 8% of Danbury’s population. Just eight years later, Hispanics made up 18% of the population, with about 22,000 Hispanics and 10,000 Brazilians in Danbury. Maria Cinta-Lowe became the Center’s Director in 1990. In 1991, the center began holding its annual Open House, which featured food from many different Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries. The purpose of the Open Houses was to introduce community leaders to the diversity of the Latino community as well as to thank them and other social service agencies for their help with the Center’s clients; as well as, letting the community know about the Center and its programs. In 1993, the Center moved to its current West Street location. The City of Danbury paid the rent for the center until 2002, when the Center purchased the building. The Hispanic Center is one of the few non-profit organizations in the area that owns their own building. In 2009 Ingrid Alvarez-DiMarzo became Executive Director of the Center, while today, Carlos Valenzuela holds position as Executive Director. Today, the Multicultural Center thrives with its many services and new programs. We are very proud to have grown over the years and wish to continue to grow and succeed.
New Relationships, New Coalitions, New Possibilities
A new year of service always leads me to reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the past year. The Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury, Inc. celebrates a 45-year history of working for the success of the Hispanic community. Respecting the legacy and vision owed to our organization’s founders and my predecessors; this year we expand that vision under a new name, the Multicultural Center of Western CT.
Our experiences with providing an avenue for education, cultural competence and civic engagement affirmed that it is possible to build multiculturalism into the fabric and day-to-day functioning of our organization. It also deepened our appreciation for the tremendous complexity and challenges involved in doing this work. A multicultural organizational transition requires strong leadership, persistence, and courage. We’ve had to ask difficult questions of ourselves and engage our community in different ways. It has required the entire team’s commitment and willingness to take risks to try new things.
At 4 Harmony Street, We’ve built a solid foundation for developing a greater capacity to serve diverse populations, establish new initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion across the area, even as we remain steadfast and faithful to our core mission:
To Serve, Advocate and Educate
We have introduced new funding opportunities that nurture an array of perspectives and ideas around diversity themes. We strengthened some of our signature programs by working closer with community partners, and by forming new relationships with the state, regional and national partners to maximize the impact of our work.
Our future holds a commitment to providing the highest quality services and programs to Latinos and broader community respecting and valuing the differences that enrich our lives. Through our citizenship and civic work, we continue to strive toward greater diversity and inclusevness for each cultural group pursuing knowledge to raise their standard of living for themselves and the community at large. I enthusiastically introduce you to the Multicultural Center of Western Connecticut and invite you to join us as we raise the bar and strive together to advance Western Connecticut through the full participation of its diverse community members.