THE LATIN AMERICAN ASSOCIATION (LAA) IN GEORGIA
Our history is intertwined with the rise of the Latino population in the metro Atlanta region.
The LAA was founded in 1972 by sheriff deputy Angel Ortiz and Stratton Frank, a Miami native who moved to Atlanta in 1971. Ortiz and Frank founded a small organization to serve Atlanta’s then-emerging Latino population by helping immigrants find jobs and affordable housing. Ortiz and Frank wanted to help immigrants from Latin America settle into their new home country. Ortiz initially worked from the trunk of his car, interpreting for families and providing resources to help them adapt to their new community.
In its early years, the LAA provided services at a number of locations that included an apartment complex on Buford Highway, a former doctor’s office in Chamblee, and an office space below Kmart in Broadview Plaza (now Lindbergh Plaza). The first office of the LAA was located behind the old Kmart in Lindbergh Plaza, next to the police station, a perfect location for the many families and elderly living in apartments on Morosgo and Lindbergh drives. In 1979, Lino Dominguez purchased the LAA’s newsletter, Gazeta Latina, for $10 and turned it into MundoHispánico, now the largest Spanish-language newspaper in Georgia.
In the early 1990s, the LAA moved into its first home on Buford Highway and expanded its presence to Gwinnett County and later, Cobb County. During this time, the LAA hired its first immigration attorney. The LAA’s first outreach center, in Lawrenceville, opened its doors in 1990.
In 1993, the LAA moved to a new facility on Buford Highway. In 2001, it moved across the street to its current 45,000-square-foot facility after completing a $10.5 million capital campaign funded by generous community support. In its current location, the LAA building stands literally and metaphorically as the gateway to Buford Highway, the nexus of Atlanta’s immigrant communities.
In 2018, with the generous support of partners including Mohawk Industries, the LAA opened its third service center, in Dalton, Georgia. With this physical presence in Northwest Georgia, the LAA is now able to serve Latino communities in greater Dalton with a variety of empowering services.
Over the years, the LAA building has become a veritable community center, bustling with activity during the day, in the evening and on weekends. In addition to housing the LAA, the Georgia Hispanic Construction Association and the Oficina de Enlace del Gobierno de Guanajuato call the LAA home. Through its programs and targeted menu of direct services offered by its five focus areas, the LAA offers citizenship clinics and classes for eligible green card holders, adult education (English, Spanish, and computer classes), an empowerment program for Latina entrepreneurs, immigration legal services and family well-being services.
Aside from providing a site for community forums on immigration issues, health fairs, citizenship drives, the LAA also hosts Latino support groups for those affected by DACA, lupus and diabetes. Additionally, we offer a Toastmaster’s club, a Spanish literature book club, a seniors’ club, and an onsite coffee hour allowing English and Spanish-speaking individuals to practice their new languages together.