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The Providence Journal
City Hall Honors Puerto Rico
The celebration recognizes the country's culture and the contributions of its people.
BY RICHARD C. DUJARDIN
August 5, 2004
PROVIDENCE - The Puerto Rican community's annual festival got an early start with a flag-raising ceremony yesterday at City Hall.
Although the week-long celebration does not start until Aug. 18, about 40 people, including Mayor David N. Cicilline, watched as the Puerto Rican flag was unfurled and placed on a stand near the U.S. flag in the Alderman's Chambers.
Abigail Mesa, vice president of the festival, said the flag was adopted when Puerto Rico won commonwealth status in 1952, but its origins date to 1895, when 59 Puerto Ricans gathered at the Chimney Corner Hall in Manhattan to organize a group calling for the independence of Puerto Rico and Cuba from Spanish rule. Three years later, that flag became the symbol of resistance for those opposed to a U.S. invasion.
Although people of Dominican ancestry are the largest ethnic group among Latinos in Providence, those of Puerto Rican heritage comprise the largest Latino group in Rhode Island, with an estimated 45,000 people.
Lydia Rivera, the president and one of the founders of the Puerto Rican Political Action Committee, noted that this year will mark the first time the Puerto Rican flag will be raised at the State House, in a at 10 a.m. on Aug. 20.
The festival takes place at Drums Field, near the Johnson & Wales Harborside campus off Allens Avenue.
The highlight of the festivities is the parade on Aug. 22 and which typically draws thousands of spectators along Broad Street. Mesa, who is the parade's vice president, said the parade is the oldest Latino celebration in Providence and is similar to the Puerto Rican Day festivities in New York City.
"Through this event we create awareness to our future Puerto Rican generations of the valuable contributions and glorious culture of our people," she said.
On hand at City Hall yesterday were Liznell Hernandez, Miss Puerto Rico of Rhode Island for 2004; Savannah Colon, Miss Parade; Karla Lebron and Jasmin Serrano, Miss Pre-Teen and Miss Teen Puerto Rico for Rhode Island, respectively, and Angelica Rivera, the festival's ambassador.