Latino Educational Training Institute
Since 1998: Information • Education • Training • Leadership
History of LETI
November 23, 2020
The very first Hispanic Business Fair happened in 1997 and gathered approximately 45 organizations offering their services.
For a long time, many and many Latin businesses did not have the knowledge on how to access the local American community. To build those bridges the Latino Fair was created.
It was founded by Rosario Reyes “to showcase Latin businesses in a fun and festive environment” THE ENTERPRISE, Wed, august 19, 1998, and to build a connection between people in the neighborhood to help them know each other better.
At that time Rosario decided to leave her job at SeaMar and start LETI (Latino Educational Training Institute). The first business fair was also the first introduction of LETI to the public. It was held on the outdoor premises of the freshly bought building where the organization opened its doors for the first time.
LETI has started as part of the Las Americas Business Center- a service which is helping businesses from South and Central America with accounting, bookkeeping, licensing, notary, etc. With the growth of Hispanic community, Las Americas began receiving a lot of requests and many of them were for classes and training. When was created the non-profit organization LETI, which now successfully provides a lot of educational programs.
Returning to the expos, besides business purposes they would provide diverse activities for all ages. In different years there were: salsa lessons and competitions, Zumba classes, colorful and stunning Peruvian dance performances, fashion shows, children’s entertainment, exquisite cuisine. Educational information and opportunities were represented by colleges, schools, libraries and LETI’s own programs.
For several years expos have been taking place in the Community park, but licensing, organization, and financing of a growing event became difficult, so it had to be postponed for better times. Better times came in 2008, when Rosario had been receiving many requests from businesses to bring the fair back; she addressed Edmonds Community College. There she met Shirley Sutton – African American lady, Director of the Multicultural Department who was just looking to organize an event for the Community of Colors.
This partnership became very favorable for LETI and for the college, as both were able to significantly expand their community outreach. Ever since the Latino expo takes place on the Edmonds CC territory.
Over the time the number of vendors has grown to 60 since more institutions realized that it is a good place to offer their services, and the amount of visitors increased from 250 to 850. If the first fairs primarily consisted of American businesses, the past years events attract more diverse vendors. Since 2011 the president of the Edmonds college and leaders of the community give welcome speeches at the opening of every event.
In 2013 in addition to food delights and entertainment Expo offered free health screening. The screening included vital basics such as: blood pressure check, body mass index, healthy diet breast cancer information, etc. There were various health and food safety seminars and activities as well, so this way it became a proper Health Fair inside the Expo.
Same year Expo had a South American traditional clothing show performed by Mexican dance group. They were eager to teach young people folk dances and musical instruments to preserve the rich Mexican culture, and Dr Jean Hernandez, the president of Edmonds CC at that time provided college aerobics room for the classes. In the meantime, while paperwork with the college took some time to be prepared, dance class was held every Friday at LETI’s classroom. Every week tables and chairs were moved, so children and parents would practice playing vihuela (Mexican guitar) and dancing. Students would show their new art skills performing at Expos and Galas. Now the classes are suspended, but they will go back when it is safe again.
Within every year the amount of participants and visitors of the Fair would increase, and in 2015 there were representatives of Mexican consulate, several banks, financial, health, and retail organizations. And Expo is beneficial for all - during one of the earlier events Washington Mutual (now known as Chase) company during the expo opened so many accounts with Latin people and organizations, so they needed to hire a Spanish speaking employee, who happened to be their very first Latin team member.
In 2016 another lucky encounter. Dr Annie Broks from University of Washington in Bothell has sent her students to help out during the Expo. It was a new opportunity for them to provide service for the community of colors. Now, on average 25 students of UW help at annual Expos.
With the growing popularity of expos, more educational institutions like colleges, schools, churches, and other non-profit organizations are participating in the events, and ready to consult everyone about their programs, degrees, and classes.
The past few years LETI dedicates its Expos to celebrating cultural diversity in the region. The goal is to bring more food and retail vendors to the fair to organize the market where every visitor will find something interesting. Please do not miss the next expo when it will be possible to organize it again safely. Until when we will keep you updated.