With a melting pot of diverse ethnicities, Hoboken residents take great pride in honoring the traditions and culture of those who make up their community. On Saturday morning, the Puerto Rican Culture Committee of Hoboken hosted the city’s 45th Annual
Introductions were made by Raul Morales, Sr., president of the PRCC.
“What we try to do is introduce our culture to everyone,” said Morales, who has been involved with PRCC for 25 years. “Hoboken is such a unique place. Everyone knows everybody here.”
“My goal is to have all the Latino communities together,” he added. ‘We are trying to keep our community together, which in these days is not that easy to do.”
State and local elected officials were present at the event as well, including Assemblyman Ruben Ramos, Freeholder Anthony Romano, Mayor Dawn Zimmer, City Clerk James Farina, as well as Board of Education member and Executive Director of the Housing Authority Carmelo Garcia. Morales stated that Garcia is also the first Latino born and raised in Hoboken Housing, and today serves as the director of the Housing Authority.
“It’s always good to see our heritage celebrated in such a fashion,” Ramos said. “President Raul Morales does a phenomenal job and [the committee] really does a great job in reaching out to the youth in our community. Its helped built this city into what it is today.”
“It’s always an honor to be a part of this ceremony,” said Romano. “I have been in Hoboken my whole life and I think it’s important to keep [and celebrate] the traditions of every ethnic group [in Hoboken].”
To kick off the ceremony Committee Member Magdalena Porrata gave the invocation, and was followed by Sammy Olmedo singing the Star Spangled Banner and then everyone in attendance singing the Puerto Rican National Anthem “La Borinqueña.” Morales then proceeded to read a poem entitled “Fiesta Puertorriqueña 2011” (Puerto Rican Party 2011) written for the occasion by resident Adalberto Sarroza.
Afterwards Morales called up the day’s honorees including Flag Raising Honoree Cristino “Baby” Diaz, and Hoboken High School seniors Dayanara Morales and Jibril Odom, who were the recipients of $1,000 scholarships on behalf of the PRCC Scholarship Committee. This is the 16th year the committee has granted scholarships.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer presented the three honorees with proclamations from the city, and the three also received Certificates of Recognition sent by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and Rep. Albio Sires.
Honoree Diaz is a long time resident and celebrated community activist in Hoboken. The committee chooses its annual honorees among individuals, who have contributed to the betterment of the community.
“For me this is a dream come true,” Diaz said. “For me this is the greatest [honor] in the world.”
Born in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, Diaz immigrated to the States at the age of 14, and by 15 had already begun working full-time at the Tootsie Roll Factory in Hoboken. He moved on to work in the garment industry of New York City, and finally worked for the Hoboken Board of Education for 26 years. Diaz retired in 2001.
Diaz was always known for his philanthropic work in the Hoboken Latino community, which included organizing collections of money, clothes, medical supplies, and various other items to send to Latin American countries that were struck by natural disasters.
“When I arrived here I was a boy, and I was always fighting for our community and showing the utmost respect to everyone,” said Diaz. “I organized activities not just for myself, but for the community and it was my pleasure to do so.”
A write-up in the program described Diaz as, “an icon of Hoboken and we appreciate everything he has done for our community and our city.”
Following the conclusion of the celebration in court chambers, attendants congregated to the front of City Hall for the official flag rising. After Diaz raised the flag he expressed his gratitude to the audience, and stated that “the Puerto Rican flag is like a woman, you have to love her and you have to take care of her.”
In addition to the festivities, the committee was also hosting a senior citizen’s luncheon later that day for 125 seniors, and other upcoming events will be a banquet in September and the Christmas senior dinner on Dec. 18.