Raquel Marquez Frankel, in black chiffon and pearls, scanned the golden sun-lit expanse of the Organization of American States building in an effort to identify faces among the mostly suit-clad, some black tie-clad (basically come-as-you-want-clad) crowd at a benefit last night for GALA Hispanic Theatre.

"This is GALA's first outreach," said Frankel, GALA board member and former director of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, "so I really don't know all the people here.We want to get GALA away from being stereotyped as a small Columbia Road theater into a vital cultural resource."

So they pooled their contacts and supporters and came up with this; a benefit sponsored by Alejandro Orfila, secretary general of the OAS, Sargent Shriver and Effi Barry, wife of the mayor. Shriver didn't make it, Orfila came for a while, and Barry came in time to read a proclamation by the mayor making yesterday GALA Day.

What they did get were about 300 people -- at $35 a person (although GALA must pay $2,000 for use of the OAS, according to Rebecca Medrano, who runs GALA with her husband, Hugo.) And it amounted to an interesting mixture of hill staffers, devoted friends, a former ambassador to Mexico (Joseph J. Jova, also a GALA board member), concerned Hispanics and working politicans.

City Council president Arrington Dixon came and sampled the guacamole and chile. "I'm supporting the community," he said. "This is the first place I got involved politically."

Stefan Lopatkewicz, GALA's attorney, turned out lawyers, friends and his two brothers Ted and Karol. ("Teddy is tending bar over there," Karol pointed out.) "Stefan wrote me a letter saying 'you better come,'" said attorney James Hirschman, "and I said, 'Fine -- if you come to mine.'" Hischman is president of the American Heart Association of Southern Maryland, which is also having a fund-raiser soon.

WDVM producer Pablo Sanchez was the master of ceremonies. "Tonight, mostly we honor those who faced humiliation because of their culture," he told the audience in impassioned remarks. "Tonight we honor those faceless Latinos who labored in periodicos [newspapers], in grupos teatricos [theater groups], so that a torch could be lit."