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Springfield Union-News

Island Delicacies Highlight Puerto Rican Celebration


November 23, 2002
Copyright © 2002 Springfield Union-News. All rights reserved. 

The tastes of Puerto Rico were front and center yesterday at the New North Citizens Council celebration of food, art and history.

SPRINGFIELD - Mario F. Cirillo, assistant superintendent of schools, was treated to one of his favorite Puerto Rican foods yesterday.

"I love pork and rice," said Cirillo as he sat eating lunch with several co-workers at the second annual Puerto Rican History Celebration at the New North Citizens Council.

Several hundred visitors enjoyed a buffet of more than a dozen Puerto Rican dishes, several displays of artwork and history, and the sounds of Latin music.

"Today is the merging of the smaller community (of Puerto Ricans) with Springfield's larger community. It's a way to celebrate a heritage," said Michael E. Denney, the council's program director.

"Also, it's a way for us to say that we are here to stay," he said.

It's way to invite regular council visitors for a fun time as well as introduce the organization to neighbors who are unfamiliar with it, Denney said.

New North Citizens Council offers 33 human service programs and does advocacy for the North End.

Cirillo said he has had many interactions with the council, especially when he worked for 12 years as principal of Chestnut Accelerated Middle School. "This is an opportunity to celebrate with an organization that has brought so much to the community," he said.

Aracelis Gonzalez, a member of the New North Citizens Council board, said, "It is fun just getting together with friends to enjoy a meal."

Many of the dishes served yesterday are often made only on special occasions and holidays, said Gonzalez as she ate one of her favorite, pasteles, beef patties.

The food was prepared by 40 New North Citizens Council workers. Rosa L. Espinosa, a program manager at New North Citizens Council, started making coconut custard at 6 a.m. yesterday.

"Everyone from Puerto Rico loves to cook," said Espinosa as she helped serve a buffet line that was 30 people deep.

"We do this because we are so proud of our heritage," said Espinosa, who prepared yellow rice with sausage.

Carmen Rivera showed visitors a basket of typical produce in Puerto Rico. As she introduced items such as green bananas and plantain, Rivera explained ways in which the produce can be prepared.

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