Question of the Week
Which Philadelphia organization initialized the revitalization of "El Bloque de Oro" (the Golden Block)?
Answer: The Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia
The Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia (SMA) was a private, nonprofit organization which promoted commercial and economic development activities on behalf of Spanish-speaking persons in the Philadelphia area. Founded in 1969, the association began as a self-help group for Puerto Rican and Latino business owners--and prospective owners--and went on to develop a professionally-staffed business development office. Under various Department of Commerce contracts from 1971 to 1981, the SMA became a major provisioner of technical support services to the Spanish-speaking business community in Philadelphia.
In addition to programs aimed at the individual entrepreneur, the Spanish Merchants Association also promoted the revitalization of the North Fifth Street "El Bloque de Oro" (Golden Block) Hispanic commercial district in the mid-1970s. The group also took on other community development projects in North Philadelphia, including a Section 8 housing project (Dorado Village) that opened in 1983, a housing rehabilitation program sponsored by the City of Philadelphia's Office of Housing and Community Development Technical Services program (1983 to 1986), and the redevelopment of an industrial site on North Third Street called the Somerset Industrial Center. While recovering from the last venture, which was financially disastrous, the association opened a new minority business office in the Golden Block area and operated this service for two years before going out of business in 1988.
The records of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia (MSS116) date from 1970 to 1988. The collection contains correspondence, board minutes, financial and administrative records, applications for federal contract awards and supporting documentation, annual and other reports, newspaper clippings, project files, community surveys, planning studies, statistical information, and printed materials pertaining to SMA activities.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.