Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a local nonprofit that seeks to strengthen the Philadelphia-area Latino communities, announced this week that an openly gay Latino attorney and his partner would chair the organization’s upcoming gala.
Romulo Diaz, former Philadelphia city solicitor, and his partner Dennis James will serve as the honorary co-chairs for Congreso’s Gala Latina: Feria de las Flores, A Night in Medellín. The event will be held March 14 at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia at the Bellevue, 200 S. Broad St.
Ken Trujillo, Congreso board chair and the gala event chair, said the black-tie gala, now in its third year, is meant to forge relationships among members of the Latino community and their supporters, as well as honor Latino traditions.
“The gala was envisioned to bring together Latinos and those who are supportive of the Latino community who wouldn’t otherwise have an easy connection to one another,” Trujillo said. “We were finding that we have all these amazing Latinos in Philadelphia, in the suburbs and in New Jersey and they’re doing just incredible things, so we started thinking that we needed to find a way to connect them with one another. And the other big part of the gala is just a way to celebrate the best that the Latino community has to offer.”
Trujillo noted that Diaz and his partner fit into that category.
“We look for people who exemplify excellence, and I think Romy is really extraordinary and is definitely one of the best that the Latino community has to offer,” he said.
The consult of Mexico, Enrique Ruiz Sanchez, and his wife Raquel Tapia served as last year’s honorary chairs, and WPVI-TV anchor Walter Perez and his wife Rita held that distinction at the organization’s inaugural gala in 2007.
A gala committee selected Diaz and James for the honor and notified the couple in December.
“To be honest, I was absolutely surprised,” Diaz said. “My partner and I were headed to Mexico for the holidays and I got the call and it really surprised me because I think so highly of this organization. And also I kind of think of myself as someone who’s toiled in the vineyards, but this is an opportunity to really not only support this organization but to put a personal face on this community.”
Former Mayor John Street selected Diaz as city solicitor, the city’s chief legal adviser, in 2005. Diaz had previously served as the chair of the commercial and regulatory law group in the city’s law department since 2002. After Street’s term ended last year, Diaz joined Exelon as an associate general counsel.
Diaz and James, who have been together for more than 25 years, moved to Philadelphia seven years ago.
Trujillo said the couple will deliver the opening remarks during the gala and then meet and greet attendees throughout the event, making connections with other Latino leaders.
Trujillo noted that the cultural aspect of the event is just as integral as the networking opportunities.
This year’s gala is based on the annual flower festival held in Medellín, Colombia, and will feature decorations, music, food and dancing particular to the area.
Diaz noted that his father hails from nearby Venezuela and that he himself spent time in Colombia during college, immersing himself in the country’s vibrant culture, which he said he’s excited to experience again during the gala.
“This is a real opportunity to celebrate the vitality of the arts and culture of the Latino community, as well as a tremendous opportunity to grow the resource base of the Latino community in Philadelphia,” Diaz said.
The gala will kick off with a dance lesson at 6:30 p.m. and a cocktail reception at 7 p.m., followed by dinner and dancing. General tickets are $250 per person, while young professionals 32 and under can purchase tickets for $150.