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J.Smith/ElHiSpano

Phila./Camden – Presiding over the 9th Annual ‘Tres Reyes” or Three Kings ceremonies at Camden’s Walt Whitman Arts Center, Tuesday, Assemblyman Angel Fuentes brought along to the 2015 festivities another regal and widely recognized figure in the city of Camden, the veteran Legislator and newly appointed State Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez. Ms. Perez will begin serving Camden and its surrounding counties in the New Jersey Senate this month, becoming the first Latina to serve South Jersey in the upper chamber.

With Mayor Redd, Assemblyman Gilbert ‘Whip’ Wilson and his mother Maria Caban Fuentes joining an audience of more than 250, Mr. Fuentes enthusiastically declared that the “Fighting Fifth” district would continue the renaissance occurring in Camden. “Nilsa is someone who understands the struggles of our community.”

Of the “Three Kings” celebration, Mr. Fuentes told El Hispano that, “It’s just a great thing to be able to help children understand and appreciate the culture, music and traditions that their families brought here from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Peru and elsewhere in Latin America.”

“The toys are important,” he added, “but this is also something of value, spiritual and for the family.”

“Tres Reyes” events were also being held, Tuesday, in Philadelphia, Reading, Allentown, Lancaster and in Harrisburg.  At the Taller Puertorriqueno the Three Kings, portrayed with aplomb by Jose Lopez, Mike Martinez and Luis Vargas, ambled across a snowy Lehigh Avenue with nearly 100 children and parents trailing as they made their way to the Taller’s theatre.

Both A. Irizarry, Director of Education at Taller, and Gabriella Sanchez, Cultural Enrichment, spoke to more than 100 children of the “faith, hope and charity” that were part and parcel of the gifts of the Three Kings brought to the ‘baby Jesus” in Bethlehem.

Discussing the major events and people of 2014 and what they looked forward to in 2015, a majority of those questioned referred to President Obama’s action to grant status to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.  Others mentioned the ongoing issue of violent encounters with police and the minority communities. One individual cited the failure to “sell PGW.” And for 2015, the issues of health care, improving schools and reform to the justice system were the priorities mentioned by 8 out of 10.

Nilvia Rodriguez, a mother of two, said the “violent’ encounters between minorities and police was a “complicated” problem. “But reforming the Justice system is really important. That has to be addressed. There are many good cops.  Unfortunately, there are a few that are bad.”

For Ms. Rodriguez, however, the executive action on “immigration” was the most important event of 2014. “The President helped out a lot of young people first and then the adults.”

Angel Flores, who described himself as a Montgomery cty. Entrepreneur, agreed, the immigration reform was “a great step forward. The President promised that when he was running for office and although it took a long time to happen, he did it.”

“But this country was built by immigrants,” said Mr. Flores.  “Even Obama’s Father came from Africa and President Kennedy’s family, I think they were Irish.  And if you look at the roots of people, everybody in this country is an immigrant and came from somewhere.”

A Camden County resident with two sons serving in the military, Ed Martinez referred to two events this year: “Being an American, I think that the end of our military presence in Afghanistan was the best thing for 2014. But as a Puerto Rican, I’d have to say that honoring the 65th Infantry, the “Borinqueneers” with the Congressional Gold medal was long overdue.”

“I have a friend who had a grandfather that served in the 65th Infantry of Puerto Rico,” noted Mr. Martinez.  “It’s a part of our country’s history that many of our kids don’t know about.”

A Computer Programmer from Fairhill Philadelphia, Tomas Mieses viewed the issues with police was the dominant issue of 2014: “Everybody was talking about it.’  But he considers “improving the health care reform,” the major subject of the coming year.

A baker, Tatyanne Resto was one of the few people interviewed who mentioned the disappearance of the “43 Mexican students” which has caused outrage an massive protests against Mexican public officials, as a major event in 2014.  She also noted that immigration reform and relations between minority community and the police were also important.

Looking to the near future and 2015, Mr. Martinez considers the “fight against poverty and homelessness,” as at the forefront of issues facing the nation and region. “I don’t think we do enough for the homeless.”

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