Latino Heroes Honored on Memorial Day
“They Answered the Call”
Philadelphia – Under the leafy canopy of the Medal of Honor Grove at Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pa. on Sunday, and the next day at the Korean War and Vietnam War Memorials on Penn’s Landing, Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, the Gulf war, Vietnam, Korea and World War II gathered with family and friends for solemn Memorial Day ceremonies to honor those who, in the words of E. Harris Baum, Consul for the Republic of Korea, endured the “hardships and travails” of war to preserve our nation’s “freedom.”
“Freedom comes with a price,” noted the Korean Consul, “and that price sometimes calls for the ultimate sacrifice.”
Ceremonies at Valley Forge’s Medal of Honor Grove mirrored those at the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials, but had a heightened sense of elation, arriving just six days after the passage of legislation honoring the Puerto Rican soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment, better known as the “Borinqueneers,” with the long sought Congressional Gold Medal.
Besides fighting Chinese and N. Korean enemy soldiers, along with elements that included weather that Consul Baum noted often dropped to “40 degrees below zero,” the Borinqueneers also faced the hurdles of discrimination. According to Korean War Veteran Hector Maisonave, they were still segregated – despite changes initiated by President Truman- and were often referred to as “dogs and spics,” and typically given “old” and inadequate clothing and equipment.
Yet the members of Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment persevered, and as Mayor Michael Nutter said in his remarks on Monday -referring to all Veterans- “they showed up, responded to the call,” and “did their duty.”
In February of 1951, General Douglas MacArthur, writing of the “gallant 65th Infantry,” extolled their “valor, determination, and resolute will to victory (that) give daily testament to their invincible loyalty to the United States.”
“They are writing a brilliant record of achievement in battle,” added MacArthur, “ and I am proud indeed to have them in this command.”
The nationwide effort of several years to obtain the Congressional recognition was described by the Keynote Speaker of the Valley Forge ceremonies, State Senator and Lt. Governor candidate Mike Stack, as “long overdue.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by Congress on any individual or group.
The endeavor was spearheaded in Philadelphia by Veteran, U.S.M.C. Juvencio Gonzalez, an aide to Sen. Stack, and Veteran U.S.M.C. George Perez, an aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Brady.
“These advocates are the heart and soul of this movement and I am in awe of what they have accomplished,” said Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, referring to Juvencio Gonzalez, George Perez and others.
After an introduction by Latin-American Post 840 Commander Jose M. Melendez and Unit 840 President Candida Gonzalez, remarks were offered by Jason Raia, V.P, Freedom Foundation; Dr. Emilio Marrero, (Ret.) Cpt. US Navy; Deborah Meserve, Col. US Air Force and Tim Meserve, (Ret.) Lt. Col. US Air Force.
Wreaths and flowers were placed at the Medal of Honor Obelisk which honors the Puerto Rican Medal Of Honor recipients by: Latin-American Auxiliary Unit 840; Latin-American Post 840; Hispanic-American Riders Assoc.;National Assoc. of Puerto Rican Women; Milian Rodriguez Funeral Home; and Olga and Jose Melendez.
The five original Puerto Rican recipients of the Medal of Honor, that included PFC Fernando Luis Garcia, CPT Humbert Roque Versace, PFC Carlos James Lozada, SPC4 Hector Santiago Colon and Cpt. Euripides Rubio, now have four additional names. Following a lengthy investigation that determined a number of Jewish and Latino soldiers deserved the recognition for their service, the list also includes: Private Demensio Rivera (Korea), Private Miguel A. Vera (Korea); MSG Juan E. Negron (Korea) and SSG Felix M. Conde-Falcon (Vietnam).
During the hour-long ceremonies at the Korean War Memorial, a crowd of more than three hundred heard from several dignitaries, but perhaps the most inspiring and briefest remarks came from Northeast Philadelphia’s Kevin McCloskey. A Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, McCloskey lost both legs when an IED struck his vehicle in 2008.
After saying that “returning home” made him realize how important his service was, McCloskey added, that the key to his recovery was his “family, friends and neighborhood.”
CBS3’s longtime Weatherman Tom Lamaine spoke of following the example of his Father and two uncles -who served in the Air Force during WWII- by joining the Air Force during the early years of the Vietnam war.
Noting that many were avoiding the draft at the time, Mr. Lamain added wryly, “I also avoided the draft, I enlisted.”
The concluding wreath laying at the Vietnam War Memorial ceremonies featured a wreath offered by South Vietnamese soldiers who fought as the allies of the American forces in a war that took more than 58,000 lives. Among the 646 Philadelphians on the city’s Vietnam war memorial are those of: David Flores, Julio Morales, Louis T. Ortiz, Angel Reyes, Samuel Rodriguez, Angelo C. Santiago, Antonio A. Solis and Roberto Torres.
After the former South Vietnamese soldiers had laid their wreath, the commander of the group, Ean Nguyen, came over and shook hands with Jose Rivera, a Vietnam Veteran and former Commander of the Latin-American Legion Post 840.
Having fought alongside South Vietnamese soldiers during his time in Vietnam (1967-68), Mr. Rivera noted, “They were not big people (in stature), but they were very good fighters.”
It’s On: Wolf & Stack V. Corbett & Cawley
Local Vote:Tartaglione (2nd), Acosta (197th) & Cruz (180)
:Philadelphia – At 7:30 am, Tuesday, the voting precinct at 4th and York had been open for just a half hour, yet the streets surrounding the John Welsh public school were already teeming with up to two dozen 19th Ward committeemen, women and campaign workers.
Donning t-shirts imprinted with the names of incumbent Democratic State Senator Tina Tartaglione of the 2nd district and candidate Leslie Acosta, running in the 197th Legislative District, the feverish activity of hanging signs and handing out Democratic ballots to voters and passersby -in this predominantly Latino ward- was a lesson in the axiom that ‘all politics is local.’
Despite more than $30 million spent by gubernatorial candidates McCord, McGinty, Schwartz and Wolf – $10 million alone- their was scarcely any election day visibility in traditional form of posters or fliers.
Nevertheless, an upbeat advertising campaign that highlighted Mr. Wolf’s peace corps experience and later business success -which he shared with his workers- helped propel his overwhelming victory in the Democratic Gubernatorial primary, Tuesday, earning him to make history by unseating incumbent Republican Tom Corbett.
Winning more than 480,000 votes or 58 percent of the total vote, Wolf outpaced his three Philadelphia-based Democratic opponents, as Allyson Schwartz took (18%) of the vote, Rob McCord (17%) and Katie McGinty (8%).
From a York city baseball park, Mr. Wolf offered a victory message that referred to the “clear choice” voters will have in 2014.
“We have a clear record of an administration that wants to hollow out our schools, wants to play fast and loose with jobs, that wants to take our natural assets and play fast and loose with them,” added Mr. Wolf.
Having served nearly two decades, Sen. Tartaglione faced a primary challenge from Harvard grad Tomas Sanchez, a former Chief Legislative aide to two City Councilmen, and former Councilman Dan Savage. During his campaign, Sanchez stressed his commitment to improving education.
Despite newspaper endorsement to Mr. Sanchez, Ms. Tartaglione was reelected to the 2nd district Senate seat, winning 51% of the vote, while Dan Savage took 29% and Sanchez, 20 percent.
A Committeeman and longtime Block Captain who can often be found working to improve his Lawrence street neighborhood, Gerardo Gonzalez and partner Minerva Dones cited Sen. Tartaglione’s long record of work in the community in explaining Tartaglione’s strength: “She has done a lot for us and brought a lot of money to this community.”
In the race to replace J.P. Miranda in the 197th district, Leslie Acosta, a teacher, won 2,852 votes, defeating former State Rep. Ben Ramos (1,243) and Businessman Danilo Burgos (1,334).
Of supporting Leslie Acosta for the 197th seat, rather Ben Ramos or Danilo Burgos, Mr. Gonzalez replied, “We just need a change, we definitely need a change.” Ms. Dones nodded in agreement.
Discussing the race for Governor, Mr. Gonzalez echoed that theme, “We need change. And I like Wolf’s oil tax which he says he’ll use for schools.”
A first-time voter, Jonathan Ocasio said he was disturbed by the negative tone of the Dan Savage campaign against Tartaglione, which he said was approaching “slander.”
“People love to make accusations against” (Tina Tartaglione), said Ocasio. “But Tina’s a great person and has helped our community so much.”
After casting her vote, Wilma Rosado told El Hispano she had voted for Tina Tartaglione for the State Senate and Tom Wolf for Governor: “They are good people.”
Another early voter, Antonio Valdez also voted for Tom Wolf , explaining, “He talked a lot about jobs and health care. And he gave job opportunities to people in his (kitchen Cabinet) business.”
As she made her way passed poll workers, Jessie Morales said she had cast votes for Sen. Tartaglione and Leslie Acosta for the 197th. And of the Governor’s race? “I’m not sure.”
On the Monday before the election, U.S. Congressman Bob Brady and State Sen. Vincent Hughes united with State Rep. Maria Donatucci, Councilman Curtis Jones, Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and union leaders of SEIU 32BJ, to urge Philadelphia International Airport workers to vote “Yes” on a minimum wage ballot question.
One of three ballot initiatives, it would give the City Council authority, under the city charter, to establish a minimum wage and benefits for workers employed by subcontractors that receive city funds.
When an airport official asked U.S. Rep. Brady (d) not to talk to workers, this only spurred the leader of the city’s Democratic party to insist on talking to the workers.
“I’m going to go down there and make sure I talk to them,” asserted U.S. Rep. Brady, waving a “Vote Yes” poster for minimum wage initiative.
“It’s disgusting. We put a lot of (federal) money into this airport and they should give some of that money back to their workers. It’s a disgrace paying workers $5, $6 and $7 an hour.”
“It’s not a privilege to be here,” added Brady. “It’s our duty to be here and to fight for the people that work here.”
And on the Sunday before the election, Councilwoman Quinones and candidate for Governor McCord made a final appearance with hospital workers at St. Christopher’s Hospital on Erie Ave.
A vocal defender of labor rights, raising the minimum wage, improving schools, expanding Medicaid and providing services for Pennsylvania’s Veterans, Northeast Philadelphia’s State Sen. Mike Stack won the race for Lt. Governor, becoming the running mate of Tom Wolf in taking on the incumbents Gov. Corbett and Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley.
Rally to Stop Deportation of Israel Resendiz
Philadelphia – In the midst the legal, economic and political polemics surrounding the issue of immigration, the voices of 9-year old Caitlin and 3-year old Ariana Resendiz, both U.S. citizens by birth, have little standing and are scarcely heard by courts and decision makers.
At a rally at the 16th and Callowhill offices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), some twenty supporters of Israel Resendiz joined Caitlin and her mother, Pilar Molina, in calling for the release -pending a hearing- of her father, the man she says is “the best dad in the world.”
“I don’t understand” why immigration officials think “he is a flight risk,”said an exasperated Pilar, the wife of Israel Resendiz. “But I’m doing everything I can so that he can come home to us.”
Israel Resendiz Hernandez is an undocumented immigrant who made the mistake of trying to return to his homeland in Queretaro, Mexico, to attend the funeral of his Father. On his first attempt to come back to his family in Norristown, the father of two daughters and owner of a corner grocery store was arrested in Arizona by border patrols and returned to Mexico.
Desperate to get back to wife and children, he made another and this time successful border crossing in November, and immediately made his way to his family. Local immigration agents, aware of Resendiz’s return, apprehended him on the night of January 27th, as he and his wife were closing their Chain Street store.
In an effort to gain legal status through a pleading before a federal immigration judge, Resendiz’s attorney Thomas Griffin is appealing based on a “reasonable fear,” an argument that says Mr. Resendiz will face “human rights” violations if forced to return to Mexico.
While Mr. Resendiz is ineligible for Asylum -due to multiple border crossings- the attorney explained that the questionable death of his father, the shooting of his brother by noted gang members and other related threats, are a substantial argument for the court to recognize his “reasonable fear.”
“The U.S. government cannot deport any person, even if he had a prior immigration (law) violation, if they express a fear of human rights violations, persecution and torture,” said Mr. Griffin.
He is like other “refugees” or those seeking asylum, said Mr. Griffin, afraid to go home because he will likely be killed.
Local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have denied a request to release Mr. Resendiz so he can better prepare his immigration case, and also work and care for his family. ICE officials contend that he is a “danger to the community” and a “flight risk.”
The latter argument is based on multiple border crossings, and the former on a 2005 DUI charge that was subsequently expunged when Resendiz went through a rehabilitation program.
Attorney Griffin dismissed ICE’s explanation as “suspect and illogical.”
“Israel has no reason not to attend his hearing, (because) by attending and passing, that is the only way he can lawfully stay in the United States with his family.”
“ICE knows more than anyone that he only crossed the border to go to one place, and that is to be with his family in Norristown,” added Mr. Griffin.
“Asylum claims based on gang threats are currently a pretty complex and contested area of the law,” Temple University Law Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales told El Hispano.
“Withholding of removal, the alternate status for which (Resendiz) is eligible,” explained Professor Ramji-Nogales, “requires that the applicant meet a ‘more likely than not’ standard of proof – in other words, they they establish a 51% likelihood of being harmed by gang members based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”
“It sounds silly to measure potential harm in percentages, but that’s what courts do.”
In 2008 alone, an estimated 340,000 babies were born in the United States to undocumented immigrants, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Moreover, according to the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank, the children of these “mixed-status” families -like the Resendiz children- are living with the daily “threat” of the deportation of one or both parents.
The Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of of Texas, Dr. Luis Zayas, stressed the impact of deportation on U.S. citizen children left behind: “The psychological effects on the children left behind include depression, possible conduct disorders and having a constant sense of diminishing and ambiguous future.”
“No parent should be put through such an anguishing decision of whether or not to leave a child behind,” adds Dr. Zayas. “But more importantly, (is) how these kids feel about their government when they grow up.”
Dia de la Eleccion 20 de Mayo
Final Debate Tests Tom Wolf
Philadelphia – Just a week ahead of the May 20th primary elections, Monday’s final Democratic Gubernatorial debate at Drexel University was early on something of a tag team of State Treasurer Rob McCord and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz taking jabs at the leadership and ethics of front-runner Tom Wolf.
Moderated by broadcaster Larry Kane and carried by 23 television stations and nine radio stations across the state, McCord, Schwartz and McGinty went into the debate knowing they had to topple businessman Tom Wolf off his lofty perch in polls that have him ahead by up to twenty percent.
McCord opened the debate by reiterating his support for a ten percent extraction tax on natural gas drilling.
Double the rate of the other three candidates, McCord indicated it would, in large part, be used to fill a $4 billion funding gap in public education.
Mr. McCord then offered forewarning, presumably aimed at Mr. Wolf: “I love to laugh, I love to argue, but I also am tough enough to fight when it’s time.”
Former PA Environmental Secretary Katie McGinty characterized the education funding cuts as “so severe” that the state’s bond rating was at “risk.”
Allyson Schwartz referred to her work as Chair of education committees and pledged to make education a “top priority.”
Tom Wolf said he would fill depleted education coffers by shifting “priorities in the general fund.” In addition, he recommended reducing reliance on “property taxes.”
Questioned by John Baer of Daily News regarding the similarity of “solutions,” and the likelihood they will face a Republican Legislature, Katie McGinty referred to the “historic legislation” passed during her Clinton years.
After stressing the need to elect the “right nominee,” McCord again referred to his extraction tax. It “will happen,” he said, but it’s important to nominate “somebody who will drive the best bargain for the people of Pennsylvania.”
Citing his experience in the Peace Corps and business, Tom Wolf recalled working with people by laying “out a compelling vision, (and) bringing people together.”
“It’s getting people to do things they might not otherwise have done.”’
Finding “common ground” and being “willing to push” when necessary, was how Schwartz described “leadership.”
“A family owned firm” is “the worst training for building consensus,” asserted Rob McCord, questioning Wolf’s background. McCord proceeded to deride the “message” of the Wolf campaign that we’re “being sold in fuzzy ads.”
The issue of poverty was raised, citing high percentages in cities like Philadelphia and Reading. On this topic Ms. Schwartz, endorsed raising the minimum wage and providing “access to opportunity.”
The nation’s proclivity for “blaming the victim,” was seen as an obstacle to fighting poverty by Mr. McCord.
“If we use politics right, it’s about transforming lives,” said Mr. Wolf, sounding an idealist theme reflective of his work in the Peace Corps.
“It’s about pulling and lifting people out of poverty” he added. “It’s about transformation, it’s about change.”
Mr. Wolf urged policy “strategies” that establish a “level playing field, so everybody has an opportunity.”
Questioned as to the comparison of running a business and a government drew the sharpest exchanges of the Drexel forum.
While acknowledging “government should not be run as a business,” Mr. Wolf argued that businessmen do things that require them to “exercise leadership skills, and you have to get people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”
McCord drew a distinction between business and a “family owned business.”
He then stated that Tom Wolf’s company, instead of creating jobs in Pennsylvania, had actually outsourced work to an Indiana firm that he says, was “anti-labor.”
“The story that’s been told is a pretty story,” added McCord, “but it’s not the full story.”
Discussing the skills gap in Pennsylvania’s workforce, Mr. McCord again alluded to Wolf, saying, “Not every citizen who is a nice person and a smart person is qualified to be Governor.”
Questioned as to whether they could support the nominee of the party if it happens to be Tom Wolf, Mr. Wolf drew the only laughter of the event by saying he would support himself.
U.S. Rep Schwartz said the state needed a governor “who is willing to say that they will not tolerate corruption,” and sets the “highest ethical standards.”
While Revenue Secretary, Mr. Wolf noted, “ I did not take any of the perks, I did not take any of benefits,” and that he contributed his salary to charity. Wolf then pledged to sign an executive order banning gifts.”
McCord conceded that he would support any Democratic party nominee: “Anyone would be vastly, vastly better than Tom Corbett.”
“But why not (nominate) the best” candidate?” asked McCord.
“I know Tom to be a smart and good man,” continued McCord. “I just worry the doesn’t have quite the level of skills that we could get.”
Regarding Wolf’s support of a candidate accused of racism during 1969 demonstrations in York, Pa., Tom Wolf explained that he was in the Peace Corps in 1969.
“The real issue now is in not standing up and not speaking up,” argued McCord. “The real issue is not in 1969, but in 1993.”
Allyson Schwartz agreed, “You were faced with the chance to speak up publicly, and you chose not to.”
Taller Puertorriqueno Art Work Explores History of Textile Industry
Philadelphia – “It’s an extraordinary artwork that pays homage to the ordinary people who made the textile industry that once dominated this area,” said Rafael Damast, the Visual Arts Program Manager of the Taller Puertorriqueno.
While describing the installation of the newest addition to the Taller Puertorriqueno’s Garden at 5th and Lehigh – already festooned by a three-story mural – Mr. Damast watched with diffident admiration as a pair of Venezuelan-born artists fastened the several pieces together with the aid of local handymen Candido and Jose “as if it were a puzzle.”
The wooden sculpture of multiple images and components evokes a rich sense of craftsmanship, community, family and the history of a neighborhood. The work of New York-based artists Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Saleme, from the design and carving to the painting, took nearly three months.
By immersing themselves in the Kensington, Fishtown and Easternorth Philadelphia neighborhoods, the artists gathered the kind of visual and historical experience they ultimately depicted on to their wooden canvas.
Centered by the figure of a young seamstress, Cazorla and Saleme have juxtaposed the images of row houses, dilapidated textile factories and aging church steeples in a manner that has a sprightly narrative quality that is both compelling and complementary to the colorful Latin culture of the area.
Unlike a mural, the three dimensional aspect of the sculpture better reflects the historical continuity of an area that witnessed the arrival of Puerto Rican immigrant workers in the 1950s and 60s.
Both Venezuelan artists used their expertise in textiles and painting to produce a geometrical and dynamic piece of sculptural that illuminates the history of an apparel and textile industry which once provided hundreds of thousands of jobs, and some believe could be on its way back to this city. Today, due to cheaper labor abroad, the former textile neighborhoods of Manayunk, Fishtown and Kensington, provide jobs for a little more than 2,100 workers.
The Puerto Rican woman looming over a blue sewing machine – a piece of purple cloth in her hands – dominates the work. Cazorla and Saleme’s soft color palette of greenish factory, brown church spire and purple row homes exudes not both a lyrical and earthy quality.
While Ms. Cazorla focused on the physical arrangement of the work, Ms. Saleme, a former designer of textiles, produced the ornate floral cutouts and the wording – Ilusiones, Magic, Suenos and Life – that accentuate the piece.
The official unveiling of this latest Taller work was on Friday, May 9th at 5:30 pm and is part of a series of summer events involving various other organizations and projects. JFS
Philadelphia – In April of 2012 the University of Penn Museum opened an exhibition that focused on the legendary long-distance “Tarahumara” or Raramuri runners of the Sierra Madre in Northwestern Mexico.
Two years later Penn’s Athletic department opened its doors to four of Mexico’s best long distance runners, along with several Puerto Rican athletes to participate in the University’s legendary Penn Relays.
Running in the Distance Medley race in this 119th annual Penn Relays, the young Mexican team of Jose de Jesus Fraire, Bryan Antonio Martinez, Edgar Alan Garcia and Christopher Antonio Sandoval and coached by Martin Paulin. was facing a formidable array of some of the world’s elite runners.
The United States team, for instance, reportedly included one Olympic Silver medalist; a widely respected Australian team also brought several Olympic hopefuls; and the team from Ireland boasted having as its anchor, John Coughlan, the son of Ireland’s three-time Olympian Eamonn Coughlan.
After a relatively pedestrian start, the United States and Australia picked-up the tempo, creating a little separation from the Irish team and Mexico’s Edgar Alan Garcia.
The distance medley consists of four consecutive runs: one of 400 meters, another of 800 meters, 1200 meters and a final of 1600 meters.
As the U.S.turned the corner at the first quarter mark of the race, Penn’s Chief Announcer Ron Lopresti reported the time of the lead United States runner of 2.59.3, with Australia on his heels at 2.59.5.
With Jose Fraire running the second leg of the medley for Mexico, Announcer Lopresti again read the order of runners, as the United States and Australia were pulling away from Ireland and Mexico. For a brief moment Australia took the lead, but the United States would quickly regain it and would not relinquish the front position for the remainder of race.
Lopresti dramatically repeated, “It’s the U.S., Australia,” then pausing, “Ireland and Mexico.” And that was the order of race’s finish. The United States team of Torrence, Summers, Johnson and Menzano won with a time of 9:28.27, a little more than 12 seconds off the world record held by Kenya.
In the final 1,600 meters both Mexico’s Christopher Sandoval and Ireland’s John Coughlan were already well behind, and the daunting prospect of catching the U.S. may have been disheartening for both, as Mexico’s team finished with a time of 10:00.41.
Despite the disappointing finish, coach Martin Paulin said he was pleased with his team young runners, as the team posed for photos after the race.
The carnival-like atmosphere of the weekend event was arguably as appealing as the relays and individual events that brought a significant number of Latino high school and college students from across the country and abroad to Penn’s Franklin Field.
In preparing for his 4X400 relay, Saturday, Avi Montanez of Woodbridge H.S. in Virginia, told El Hispano that he had run up the “Rocky steps” at the Art Museum with his teammates. Inspirational as a Rocky-like warmup is, Avi Montanez and his Woodbridge team finished sixth out of thirteen teams in their race.
And Reading High School’s team of Felix Hernandez, Mamadu Bari, Dante Owens and Jaie Johnson similarly faced tough competition, finishing in seventh place in their Saturday 4×400 relay.