Hispanic Heritage Graphic

White Plains, NY — On Monday, the Westchester County Board of Legislators hosted its annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration, honoring the life’s work of Isabel Elsa Villar, former Executive Director of El Centro Hispano, and Dinora Pacheco, President of the Peekskill Hispanic Community Corp.

Chair Vedat Gashi (D – New Castle, Somers, Yorktown) opened the ceremony, welcoming guests both in person and virtually. He said, “This year’s theme is ‘Uniting Communities.’ This theme recognizes the need for solidarity and cooperation across diverse groups, especially at a time when societal divisions are more apparent. The events and celebrations of 2023 are geared towards fostering unity, while still appreciating the different cultures that fall under the Hispanic and Latino umbrella.”

“Tonight we are honoring two powerhouses in the Hispanic community -- the legendary Isabel Elsa Villar of White Plains, co-founder of El Centro Hispano, who sadly passed in July, and Dinora Pacheco, President of the Peekskill Hispanic Community Corp.”

Majority Leader Jose Alvarado (D – Yonkers) presented the first proclamation, extolling not just the exceptional work but the personal qualities of Ms. Villar. He said, “So many of us had the pleasure and honor of working with Isabel. She was a symbol of availability and opportunity for all … Isabel Villar was about love. It didn’t matter who you were, what you did, how you identified. She was put on this earth to do good for everyone. Her work may have been centered at El Centro Hispano in White Plains but her caring extended way beyond that, out into the entire world.”

Legislator Ben Boykin II (D - White Plains, Scarsdale, West Harrison) in whose district Ms. Villar lived added, "Isabel Villar was an iconic figure in White Plains, Westchester County and New York State. She was actively involved in many activities but devoted most of her time and talents to helping improve the lives of Hispanic residents. As the founding Executive Director of El Centro Hispano, Isabel built an institution that will continue to educate and provide services to all who seek assistance. She will be missed by all who knew her."

Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson (D – Elmsford, Greenburgh, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown) added, “I was honored to know such a dynamo in our community. Isabel Villar was a true visionary and strong advocate who is sorely missed. My district and the entire County continue to reap the rewards of her vision and her very valuable work. I know her memory lives on in all the valuable programs El Centro Hispano offers. Isabel poured so much into making lives better and the success stories are her legacy and for that we are more than grateful.”

Accepting the proclamation on behalf of Ms. Villar was the new Executive Director of El Centro Hispano, Judith Aucar. She said, “Thank you for remembering Isabel in such special way. It is with great sadness that I accept this honor because it would have been a true pleasure for Isabel to be here. She left us with an amazing legacy that we promised her we will keep alive for the rest of our lives. We feel her presence at El Centro constantly. The saddest thing is to see El Centro so busy helping so many and not have Isabel see the product of her hard work and dedication for more than 49 years. We will be celebrating our 50th anniversary January 31, 2024.”

The Board declared September 24, 2023 “Isabel Elsa Villar Day” in Westchester County.

Legislator Colin Smith (D – Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown) presented the second proclamation saying, “I am both excited and honored to present this proclamation to one of my hometown favorites, Dinora Pacheco, a staple in the Peekskill community. When anything is happening regarding assistance for our Hispanic residents, it’s Dinora who I call because she has the pulse of what is going on and what is needed at all times through all of her resources and activities of the Peekskill Hispanic Community Corp.”

Ms. Pacheco accepted the award with gratitude. She acknowledged the hard work of her staff in the audience, as well as the support of her family saying, “Our organization is not just there to help the Hispanic community, it is there to help all families in need. Right now, there are many in need and we do our best to provide programs and services to help them all. The Peekskill Hispanic Community Corp. was born as the result of helping the many families displaced by a terrible fire in 2015, but now we are ‘on fire’ to help as many people as we can.”

The Board declared September 23, 2023 “Dinora Pacheco Day” in Westchester County.

Read the program for Monday night’s event at: