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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Celebrate!

Puerto Rican flag raised as parade nears

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Puerto Rican State Parade organizers raised the Puerto Rican flag on the New Haven Green Wednesday, where it fluttered together with Old Glory.
More than 100 people gathered for the noon event, held every year in anticipation of the Annual Puerto Rican State Parade, now in its 45th year. This year, the parade will be held at noon Sunday in Hartford’s Pope Park.
The parade, which alternates among New Haven, Hartford and Waterbury, attracts 10,000 people a year from across the state, said parade President Maritza Rosa.
“This is a vehicle to promote our heritage and so our children never forget their roots,” Rosa said. “We were the first Latino group to come to the United States and we paved the way for other groups.”
Puerto Rico, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Florida, has been a self-governing commonwealth of the United States since 1917, when Congress made Puerto Ricans U.S. citizens.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr., state Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-95, and a number of aldermen attended Wednesday’s event.
Three Puerto Rican beauty queens, their rhinestone tiaras sparkling in the sun, held court near the base of the flagpole during the ceremony. Puerto Rican children from Columbus Family Academy and Fair Haven School waved island flags. Some of the children wore pavas, traditional Puerto Rican hats made of dried palm leaves, which often symbolize Puerto Rican jibaros, iconic islanders known as hardworking, humble and completely unsophisticated farmers from the Puerto Rico’s hilly interior.
Paul Nunez Jr, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff, said the parade reminded him of his roots, as well as the progress Puerto Ricans have made in terms of integration in the United States.
“We’ve done an amazing job in organizing our numbers. Puerto Ricans have held every office except in the state senate and statewide offices (such as state controller, secretary of state, and governor).” He pointed out that Norma Reyes, vice-chairwoman of the Democratic Town Committee in New Haven, had attempted to break the barrier by running for secretary of state in the last election.
Felix Rivera, a cellular biologist at Yale University and recent transplant from Puerto Rico, said the Puerto Rican community and culture has thrived in New Haven.
“I’ve only been here two years and now I’m part of it. They still have their culture and they embrace you,” Rivera said.
Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726.

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