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. Leading 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 450 employees and a $40 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 Master of Divinity as an Urban Theology Fellow from Union Theological Seminary, and a master’s degree 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 Nonresident Fellow for the Program for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania.
The author of five books, Reverend Cortés was listed as one of Time magazine’s 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in 2005. Rev. Cortés presented the Invocation Prayer at the Inauguration Luncheon for Barack Obama’s 2013 Inauguration Ceremony (watch video here). 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.
Since 2001, Rev. Cortés and Esperanza have hosted the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference (NHPBC). The event annually gathers in Washington, DC, more than 700 Latino faith and community leaders from across the nation, making it one of the largest conveners of Hispanic Clergy. The event features prominent speakers from both the Republican and the Democratic parties. Over the years, among the keynote speakers have been President George W. Bush, who spoke to the gathering on six occasions; President Barack Obama, who did so twice; and Vice President Joe Biden.
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 Cortés has been chosen as one of these partners, and Esperanza has been selected as a model for moving underserved people in our community out of poverty and towards economic stability.
Rev. Cortés has served on numerous boards dealing with finance, banking, religion, health, and education. Currently, he is a board member of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia; 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.