Antonia Guevara told the doctor that she felt a sharp pain that started on the left side of her throat, went down her neck and reached her heart. Gumersinda Umanzo wanted a mammograph. Maria Garcia was having lunch with her psychologist. Margarita Hernandez was receiving legal advice on her refugee status.
The four women were in the same building. All of them are Central American refugees, and none had to pay for the services at Edificio Romero--the first fully bilingual multiservice center in the United States organized to serve refugees from Central America.
Located at Olympic Boulevard and Vermont Avenue, in the heart of the largest Central American community in Los Angeles, Edificio Romero houses three nonprofit organizations: El Rescate (legal and social services), Msgr. Oscar Romero Clinic (medical and dental care) and Amanecer Community Counseling Services (psychological and psychiatric help).
"El Rescate made a big gamble when they first rented the building," said mistress of ceremonies Jessica Govea during Wednesday's inauguration ceremony. "But since the beginning, the project galvanized community support."
Indeed, donations from labor and the public and private sectors enabled the building to open its doors Sept. 1. Officials project 18,000 visits in the first year, most of them from the 180,000 Central Americans living in the Pico Boulevard-Union Avenue area.