To get to this point, Mr. Bernardino sought the support of Pat McCormack and Barbara Dubow Bernardino, Gil’s
first wife. Pat and Barbara were very important in the process of incorporating Círculo. Not only did they give advice
and provide ideas around the kitchen table on Pine Street, they both played a vital role in helping create stability for
the organization. Barbara helped to write proposals for Círculo and Pat provided critical ideas about management
and operations, and supported grant proposals. While Pat and Barbara were not part of Círculo’s initial Board, they
were instrumental in laying the foundation of Círculo by assisting him in the process to establish Círculo as a 501(c)
Pat McCormack wrote the following about Gil’s decision to leave the city:
“This was a very risky
proposition for Gil because he was losing his opportunity to continue as a city employee covered by
city insurance, the retirement system and union membership; but Gil had a vision and he felt that
the risk was well worth taking.”
The founding Board of Directors included Gil Bernardino, Enemías García, Marisa Lamarre, Olga Montenora, Rosa
Garfias, Rosa Leukovski, Father Juan Altamirano and Sister Irma Breña. This group included dedicated individuals
from the community who wanted to make a difference. Some individuals were former adult education students
of Gil’s, including Enemías García and Marisa Lamarre. Others included professionals and individuals in the
community committed to supporting the vision of Círculo.
The members of Círculo’s founding board signed their names to incorporation papers on January 29th, 1980;
witnessed by a notary public. Círculo’s incorporation papers were then officially submitted to the State of New York.
When Círculo filed for incorporation Gil was asked to pick several names for the organization. Three choices were
submitted in case one of the names was taken. In choosing the name, we wanted to have a title that would send a
message to the community about our common history and common language. Gil sought a name that would provide
unity; something that he saw was totally absent amongst different Hispanic cultures and groups. Although the first
name that Gil chose for the organization was rejected because another civic group had the name, the second name,
Círculo de la Hispanidad, was accepted.
In addition to the name, three words were central to Círculo’s vision: unity, dignity and hope. These concepts
were important to Gil as they represented the mission of the organization. He wanted to identify values that
would inspire and motivate the community. Gil saw a need to unite the community to fight for dignity and
justice and in this way bring hope to children and families. With this vision, the logo of the organization
was selected and included three boats with the words: unity, dignity and hope.
The First Years
Círculo began operating in 1980 with its first grant of $65,000 from the Nassau County Youth Board. These funds
were originally allocated to the City of Long Beach Youth Services for youth programs under the Spanish Brotherhood.
They were later reallocated to Círculo de la Hispanidad and thus Círculo began implementing programs to support
We then began working on subsequent grants including proposals that we submitted to New York State. Círculo
received its first state grant from New York for $25,000. This was also to support youth programs. Services included
homework assistance, theatre classes for children, youth and adults, a youth committee, summer camp, and a
swimming program. Guitar classes were also held. A youth musical choir group called La Tuna, with cultural roots
from the middle ages in Spain and Portugal was one of our first cultural programs. In the 13th century “tunas”
were groups of students who serenaded, played musical instruments and recited poetry in the streets to earn money
Círculo de la Hispanidad began operating first out of 42 East Park Avenue in Long Beach. There were several small
offices for our staff of three: Mike Cruz who oversaw the youth programs, Luisa Núñez, the Administrative Assistant,
and Gil Bernardino. The office was on the second floor in the front. It was a dark space and was a bit cramped. We
had a typewriter that had some missing keys, old desks and some chairs.