Rev. Luis Cortés, Jr. Story
The Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr. is the Founder, President and CEO of Esperanza, the premiere Hispanic faith-based Evangelical network in the United States. Driven by the biblical mandate to serve and advocate for “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40), Rev. Cortés founded Esperanza in 1986, with support from the Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia. Today, with a national network of more than 13,000 Hispanic faith and community-based organizations, Esperanza is one of the leading voices for Latinos in America. What began as a local initiative, with programs targeted to address the unmet needs of Philadelphia’s Latino community, Rev. Cortés is now sought by national and international leaders alike on issues of economic and workforce development, housing, immigration, and education. Under his leadership, Esperanza has grown from a small 20 person operation to more than 350 employees and a $35 million annual operating budget.
Raised in Spanish Harlem, Rev. Cortés credits his childhood experiences, a stable family life and the Latino faith community for his commitment and determination to improve the conditions of the broader community. His life’s work is dedicated to empowering others to acquire a solid education and economic stability. Rev. Cortés graduated with honors from City College, NY, earned a Masters of Divinity as an Urban Theology Fellow from Union Theological Seminary, and an MS in Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University. Rev. Cortés has received three Honorary Doctorates: Two in Divinity, from the Moravian Theological Seminary and Palmer Theological Seminary, and one in Humane Letters from Eastern University. He is now a Senior Non-Resident Fellow for the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania (PRRUCS).
The author of five books, Reverend Cortés was listed as one of Time magazine’s 50 Most Influential Evangelicals in 2005. Rev. Cortés presented the Invocation Prayer at the Inauguration Luncheon for Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration Ceremony. He was also a featured speaker at the National Prayer Service the morning after President George W. Bush’s 2005 inauguration. He has appeared on several television, radio and print media outlets, including: Washington Week, Time, The Lehrer News Hour, The O’Reilly Factor, La Opinion, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and The Washington Post.
In August 2014, at the request of The White House, Rev. Cortés led a faith-based humanitarian delegation of faith leaders to Central America to meet with political and clergy leadership in Guatemala and Honduras, to open a dialogue concerning the influx of the unaccompanied children crisis in the U.S, and to learn about causes and potential solutions. Prior to the trip to Guatemala and Honduras, Rev. Cortés and the delegation were hosted at The White House and met with representatives from the administration, the National Security Council, the State Department, and US Aid.
Since 2001, Rev. Cortés and Esperanza have hosted the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference (NHPBC). The event gathers over 700 Latino faith and community leaders in Washington, D.C., making it one of the largest conveners of Hispanic Clergy from across the nation. The event features prominent speakers from both the Republican and the Democratic parties and has been keynoted by President George W. Bush on six occasions, President Barack Obama twice, and Vice President Joe Biden. The NHPBC also serves as an advocacy platform for Hispanic clergy and community leaders, who have the opportunity to meet with their congressional representatives during scheduled Capitol Hill visits to discuss important issues that affect our Latino community.
More recently, the Urban Institute announced an initiative that brings together 24 of the nation’s leading experts, advocates, and academics from across the country for the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Rev. Luis Cortes has been chosen as one of these partners and Esperanza as a model for moving under-served people in our community out of poverty and towards mobility.
Rev. Cortés has served on numerous boards dealing with finance; banking; religion; health; and education. Currently, he is a board member of the Federal Home Bank of Pittsburgh; Hispanic Clergy of Philadelphia; and Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Eastern Region).
Reverend Cortés and his wife, Damaris have two adult children and five grandchildren.