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Pair Accept Honors At Puerto Rican Banquet…Puerto Ricans Raise Their Pride

Pair Accept Honors At Puerto Rican Banquet


July 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Daily Journal. All rights reserved.

VINELAND - The Puerto Rican Festival of New Jersey Inc. kicked off its 37th annual celebration this weekend with a banquet honoring a pair of community members who have educated young children and helped adults buy their first homes.

The banquet was held Saturday night at St. Anthony's Greek Hall on Wheat Road.

"I look forward to coming to this event and sharing the pride that we have and educating our community about our culture, our roots and our talent," said Mayra Arroyo, the festival's volunteer pageant coordinator. "It is especially important that we honor those that are involved in the community."

The annual festival, said Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, plays a significant role in the community.

"It contributes to our society and diversity and to the melting pot of what America is, and I'm proud to be here," said Van Drew, D-1.

This year's banquet honorees were Shirley Santos-Padilla and Alex Curio.

Born in Hammonton, Santos-Padilla went to school in Puerto Rico but returned to Vineland 13 years ago. Since then, she has taught bilingual education for the city's school district.

Puerto Ricans Raise Their Pride

Flag ceremony kicks off festival


July 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Daily Journal. All rights reserved.

VINELAND - A special guest came a long way to commemorate the raising of the Puerto Rican flag Sunday outside City Hall.

The Puerto Rican Festival of New Jersey Inc., which hosts the annual tradition, managed to procure the young mayor of Utuado, a province in the commonwealth from which many of the city's Puerto Ricans descend.

"Oh, we are so proud to meet him for the first time," Alie Oquendo, 46, of Vineland said as a grin spread across her face.

Others posed for photos with the mayor, 33-year-old Alan J. Gonzalez Cancel, who was the afternoon event's featured guest speaker.

Cancel urged the local Puerto Rican populace to return to their native hometown to visit relatives and invest there. They would be received with open arms, he said.

Cancel was only the foremost in a distinguished lineup of guests hailing from the island that included artist Armando Felix Lugo Rosa, whose work will be on display at Landis Park throughout the weeklong festival; Fermin Marengo, a poet and novelist; and Christian singer Samuel Hernandez.

They all traveled here to partake in the 37th annual festivities on the steps of City Hall, where the Puerto Rican flag was raised twice as the island's anthem was first sung and then played on a trumpet.

The festival's court of queens and princesses were present. Miss Puerto Rico Kelly Rodriguez gave a stunning display of her dance talents, sashaying to the beat of Puerto Rican music.

The court of fellow Hispanic organization Hermandad Latina was also present, in a show of cultural solidarity.

Presenting festival organizers with a proclamation on behalf of the city, Vineland Mayor Perry Barse said he looked forward to them leading yet "another outstanding week" in the city.

Sunday's flag raising was the ceremonial start to eight days of cultural festivities, which will culminate Sunday with a parade down Landis Avenue. Many celebrated by displaying symbols of the island.

Sherlyn Oquendo wore a blue T-shirt featuring decals of the Puerto Rican flag that matched the apparel of her mother, sister and 3-year-old son, Christian. The fashion statement demonstrated "how proud we are of being Puerto Rican," she said.

"My son is Mexican and Puerto Rican, and I want him to learn both his heritages and be proud of who he is," Oquendo said.

Elsewhere, a similar color-coordinated show of pride could be seen in the Rodriguez family. Eligio Rodriguez, 48, and his twin sons wore matching T-shirts decorated with the Puerto Rican flag.

Instilling his sons with Puerto Rican pride is important, he said, because their heritage "should continue for centuries to come."

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