The one and only Enrique Dorta, a key figure within the Latino community in the state, left us today at 9:30am.
Enrique, was an anchor and often times the first welcoming smile to so many of us that at one point or another decided to volunteer our talents in a committee asupport and support a cause dear to our hearts.
Enrique was a fabulous designer, a patron of the arts, a loved friend, and always proud of his heritage (Spanish father from the Canary Islands and a Cuban mother).
Enrique, was a citizen of the world and an admirer of all forms of culture. A traveler and a family man. For his last birthday, we met at the Aurora Theater, where we enjoyed “In The Heights”. It was a special evening as Anthony Rodriguez, Co-Founder, Producer and Artistic Director acknowledge and celebrated him publicly. Enrique was with his daughter Margarita and was ecstatic to share that his grandaughter, Rachel was getting married later that month. He loved the play so much he had tears of joy and appreciation for a story so many of us share.
Enrique was the President of Atlanta Cuban Club, created in the 70’s so that Cuban families would have a safe and welcoming place to maintain and live their traditions, he was instrumental in bridging communities by introducing them to Cuban culture (and later Latin American culture) through delicious food, music, poetry and history.
The first widely promoted Hispanic parties in Atlanta were those hosted precisely by the Atlanta Cuban Club and its dynamic directive, 8 couples at the time, that dedicated their resources and their lives to welcome the Cuban community and later the entire Latino community into their club. Every single event was beautifully designed and decorated by Enrique and his flower arrangements
Around that time, The Latin American Association was created (by Stratton & Isabel Frank, Josephina Cross and Angel Ortiz) primarily to assist Cuban-refugees from abuse and discrimination. The LAA and Enrique, along with many other Cuban professionals would be inextrincably linked since then as they are the ones that spearheaded the growth of that institution.
In 1989, Enrique Dorta along with a few friends,co-founded The Latin Fever Ball, at the time, the only Hispanic fundraiser. Enrique told me once they thought a party with good food and music is the only way to get people to come together, listen, forge friendships and have new experiences with new people. Let’s throw one and be the best at it!
The very first Latin Fever Ball, held on September 30, 1989 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, was billed as a “Gran Fiesta.” The very first gala promised “music, art, food and flowers. You’ll feel transported to one of the many lovely cities in the New World. You’ll leave the party with happy and joyful memories,” according to letters sent to potential sponsors and guests. Key in this endeavor was Enrique’s dear friend Aida Perez Flamm that made sure some of the first patrons included the Diaz Family (Diaz Foods) and other key leaders and upcoming leaders. The ball’s honorary chair was Elena Diaz-Verson Amos, wife of the chairman and CEO of Aflac. Among the silent auction items that year: a set of presidential tie clasps belonging to Ronald Reagan, a Magnavox VCR and a helicopter ride.
Enrique’s love for strong and successful communities was not constrained to Hispanic causes; before his passing,he was a board member of the Toulouse-Atlanta Sister Cities Committee and Advisor at Project Open Hand.
Yes, Enrique was fabulous with flowers, however his most characteric trait was that he knew how to make everyone laugh. Enrique was kind, smart and knew the perfect etiquette for everything. Perhaps the one thing many of us that have been working in and within the Latino/Hispanic community for years share (other than our love for Enrique) is to have tasted Enrique’s famous Arroz con Pollo.
Always impecably dressed, Enrique saw beauty in everything and we saw beauty on him. The most difficult thing he did in his life (he told me) was to leave Cuba.
Thank you Enrique, for all these amazing years with you, for your work, your dedication, your love of red flowers and black lace, your smile, your arroz con pollo, and for sticking with us even though sometimes we dared to offer advice on your designs.
We will miss you forever. I hope you are dancing in heaven and throwing amazing parties.