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Flag Waving;New Nations And Regimes Need New Symbols…Flag Flown, Worn With Gusto At Parade

Flag Waving;New Nations And Regimes Need New Symbols

April 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.

Iraq's Governing Council has just created employment for thousands of tailors and seamstresses. The Iraqi flag, which for 40 years fluttered across courts, barracks and stadiums, has been changed. The three stars, adopted by the Baathists as symbols of their ideology, have given way to a pale blue crescent, intended to symbolise peace, surmounting two lines of blue, the Tigris and the Euphrates, with a strip of yellow sand. At least this new flag, unlike our own, will not be inadvertently flown upside down.

Flags are today the most potent symbols of nationhood. When a border, system or constitution changes, so does the flag. Apartheid and communism have been consigned to the dustbin of history and so has the hammer and sickle, as well as the old South African symbols of Dutch and British settlement. The Rising Sun shed its rays after Hiroshima and the swastika mercifully was obliterated. The Arab world has had its share of changes: in the heady 1960s, when short-lived unions inspired nationalist fervour, stars were sewn on or ripped off at a dizzying rate.

The United States slowly added stars to the 13 bars as states joined the union.

Indeed, the most persuasive argument against statehood for Puerto Rico is the havoc an extra star would play with the constellation. The European Union, thankfully, has stuck at 12, even though it is soon to be 25.

Flags were originally markers, "colours" to rally troops lost in the confusion of the battlefield. They then were used to designate the lands and cities over which the king's writ held sway. For centuries they were iconic symbols, emblematic of patron saints, mercantile interests or national history. England chose St George - a saint rescued from right-wing extremism by football, his banner now greased on a thousand supporters' faces. Some countries made confusingly similar choices: in strong sunlight the Italian flag could be mistaken for the Irish, the Dutch for the flag of Luxembourg. Newer countries wanted clearer symbols: the Lebanese chose a cedar tree, the Cypriots a map (which ought, perhaps, to be divided now), the Saudis a Koranic credo.

Colours matter too. Blue is the universal favourite. Communists had a passion for red, Muslims prefer any combination of the sacred colours red, green, black and white, and the old maxim that blue and green should never be seen largely holds true. Politics is never far away. The Greeks were furious at Macedonia's claim to the many-pointed star. The best retort was that of Gromyko to the Turks' objection that Soviet Armenia's flag pictured Mount Ararat, in Turkey: "Your flag has a crescent. Do you claim the moon?" Let us hope that no one else now lays claim to the Euphrates.

Flag Flown, Worn With Gusto At Parade

Residents Gather For Statewide Celebration Of Puerto Rican Women

September 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Hartford Courant. All rights reserved.

By JON LENDER, Courant Staff Writer

MARIA TORRES, center, dances with her cousin, Eddie Torres, on Wethersfield Avenue Sunday near the end of the Puerto Rican Day Parade of Connecticut. The streets were tightly packed in front of Bulkeley High School, where the parade turned toward Colt Park with revelers dancing, cheering and waving the Puerto Rican flag.


How many ways can you fly the red, white and blue?

The answer is: too many ways to count, as legions of Puerto Ricans proved Sunday, on a day of bright sun and boisterous pride in Hartford at the Puerto Rican Day Parade of Connecticut.

They waved the flag of Puerto Rico - a lone white star in a blue triangle with alternating stripes of red and white - as they rode atop cars with their legs down open sunroofs, or hung out side windows, or sat on the folded tops of convertibles. They flew the flag from car antennas or tied it across front hoods. They wore it on their heads as bandanas, or across their backs on T-shirts. Some honked their horns in rhythm with the salsa music that blared from all directions.

And they shouted, "Que viva Puerto Rico!" - as Mayor Eddie Perez did on the hour-long, slow march at the head of the colorful mass of vehicles and people that flowed down Main Street from the Albany Avenue area, past the South Green and down Wethersfield Avenue to Colt Park.

Then, after the official parade ended in mid-afternoon, scores of cars headed slowly north in an unofficial celebration of their beloved "isla del encanto" - "Island of Delight" - through the Park Street area.

"This is a great celebration for all of Connecticut residents," Perez said early in the afternoon, amid his marching and hand-shaking with some of the thousands lining the official route in crowds that grew as the procession progressed farther south toward the park.

"It's been held for 41 years," rotating between Hartford and other cities with large Puerto Rican communities, he said. "As a youngster, the first thing I remember about Hartford was the parade. It means a lot to the culture and heritage of Puerto Ricans here in the city and throughout the state."

There were floats with young beauty queens from cities around the state, including Almajeritza Ramos, Miss Puerto Rico of New Haven, and her attendants - or, as the lettering on the float referred to them all, "La Reina y su corte" - the queen and her court.

There were shining vintage cars, such as the powder-blue 1967 Toyota Corona of Ramon Silva of Amherst, Mass.

There were coconut and mango-flavored ices for $2 each. There were barbecued shish kebabs and chicken.

And, on a hot day, there were lots of cervezas - beers - in coolers, in the park and along adjacent Wawarme Avenue, where everyone ended up.

In the park's lot, a group gathered behind a tailgate and blended lively verbal interplay with conga drums and cowbells. A man blew across the mouth of an empty beer bottle to play one note, over and over, with the beat.

There was a clipboard-carrying couple, Luis and Sandra Vera, who helped register voters among the paradegoers. Tina Marie Pena of Willimantic, riding behind her husband Carmelo on a canary-yellow motorcycle, carried out an alternative get-out-the-vote effort, waving a T-shirt printed with the words "Vote Or Die!"

This year's theme was the celebration of Puerto Rican women. "At the heart of the Puerto Rican family is the Puerto Rican woman," Perez said. "All of the folks who arrived in Connecticut arrived, early on, as part of a migration for work in the tobacco fields - and now we've arrived in all parts of government.

"We have elected officials, we have lawyers, we have doctors," said Perez, the city's first Latino mayor. "Our kids are now a second or third generation ... real American citizens but feeling connected to their homeland and their traditions - and the Puerto Rican woman is the fabric that holds all that together."

To Iris Diaz-Goodwin, a West Haven mother of three who rode in an open convertible as Mrs. Puerto Rico 2004, the celebration of the Puerto Rican woman - or, as she put it, "la mujer puertorriquena" - is about "family unity, and our pride."

"It's one of the reasons why we push our children to continue in schools and enter colleges," said Diaz-Goodwin, 35. "It's also important that we pass down our heritage and our beliefs and our pride as Puerto Rican women to our children.

"We need to step up to the plate and say, `presente!' - meaning `we are here,'" she said, and "always yes, for everything that comes our way."

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