Drastic Times for Airport Workers

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Kenney & Quinones Sanchez With Airport Workers

Jim Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia –  On the eve of Thanksgiving, Philadelphia Airport workers joined airport workers from across the country in launching a daylong hunger-strike Wednesday, borrowing a dramatic tactic occasionally used by Cesar Chavez -founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW).  

   Describing the fast as a “drastic and brave stand,” 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic director Daisy Cruz said the action was taken by baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, cabin cleaners and terminal security officers to call attention to the plight of workers facing low wages, mistreatment and retaliation for union sympathies from sub-contractors. “We’re fighting to make sure they can make a living-wage and put food on the table.”  

   Citing numerous instances of intimidation, firings and flouting of city laws requiring a minimum wage of $12 an-hour by airport subcontractors – McGinn Security, PrimeFlight and Prospect- Gabe Morgan, VP of 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU), stressed the goal of lifting airport workers out of poverty. “People have a right to work, a right to work with justice, a right to work with dignity and a right to be able to provide for their families.”  

     With high turnover rates a byproduct of working conditions at the airport, wheelchair attendants Elliot Perez,19, and Ramon Perez recognized the need for a union after only six months on the job. For Perez,  “It’s not just about money. Every worker wants respect and to earn enough to pay their rent and other bills.”

   Despite Philadelphia City Council’s passage of a bill to raise the minimum wage for airport workers to $12 an-hour, SEIU’s Morgan noted that subcontractors continued to pay workers like Elliot Perez and Ramon Perez $8.40 an-hour. Meanwhile, other workers were contending with “intimidation and harassment” from those same contractors.

   In introducing Mayor-elect Kenney, the SEIU’s Morgan noted that some issues remained unresolved, but one major change has occurred: “We now have a Mayor who came down here today. A mayor who is standing with us, a mayor who is not just sitting in center city talking about what is happening to folks, but a mayor who has come down here to you.”

 Standing beneath an umbrella to shield him from a steady rain, Kenney asserted, “You have every right to collectively bargain with your employer;  that’s the way this country was built and that’s the way this country is going to be.”

   “This airport is owned by the citizens and taxpayers of Philadelphia. It’s not owned by Primeflight, it’s not owned by McGinn,” Kenney said.  “We passed a law requiring a $12 an-hour wage and they’re going to follow that law; and come January 4, 2016 (when he takes office) some things are going to change around here.”

  “You get up every morning and get ready for work,  just like I do,” added Kenney. “You you are no different than us. And the people in elected office have to understand in Philadelphia – and many of us do – that we are you and you are us. And we’ll have your back.”

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 The mayor-elect then paused to recognize a dozen Philadelphia police Officers providing security for striking workers, noting the officers are, “protecting your right to free speech and to assemble.”

  Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilmen Kenyatta Johnson, Jones, Bob Henon, Greenlee and Gym all voiced their support for striking airport workers.

  Councilman Johnson said the City Council backed Kenney’s notion of the “people’s airport.” He added, “Workers are the backbone of the airport,” and “you have a right to organize and establish your voice.”

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Nous Sommes Tous Francais

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Today We Are All French

Jim Smith/El Hispano

Philadelphia – “La amenaza del Estado Islamico es como un rio subterraneo que puede desbordarse en cualquier momento,” dijo escritor Febrizio Larousso de La Jornada de Mexico.  “Sus brotes en la superficie transformo en ciclon sangriento en cuestion de minutos.”

 Mexican writer Febrizio Larousso said this week that ISIS is like an “underground river that can overflow the banks at anytime, transforming into a bloody cyclone” in minutes.

    A tri-color French flag dangled loosely below Robert Indiana’s Love sculpture as a sombre crowd of more than three hundred French nationals and friends gathered at JFK Plaza, Saturday night, paying quiet tribute to at least 129 killed in an orchestrated series of attacks in Paris on Friday.

   The evening’s solemn hush was broken by the singing of ‘La Marseillaise” the French national anthem. A replica of the Eiffel Tower at the foot of the sculpture was carefully adorned by numerous candles and flowers.

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    Both Chloe and Gaelle D., Au Pairs from France working in the city -requested not to use last names- met with three other French friends at a local coffee shop prior to the event.  While admittedly stunned by the attacks on the Bataclan Concert Hall, Le Carillon Restaurant and the other sites around Paris,  Chloe and Gaelle D. recalled that only ten months earlier “attacks were made on (the Parisian publication) Charlie Hebdo and on a Kosher grocery store.”

    Questioned over whether they felt more secure living and working in the United States, these twenty-something friends referred to terrorist attacks in Boston and the 11th of September in New York. “It’s something that can happen anywhere.”

   Even well-known figures, such as Fox News Commentator Geraldo Rivera and the musicians of the band U2, were caught in the aftermath of the violence in Paris.  A visibly shaken Geraldo Rivera spoke on-air of his daughter who was at a soccer game when “chaos” ensued following the Friday night irruption of terrorism.

   Describing his daughter Simone as “wonderful” and “gentle soul,’ Rivera conceded he was struggling with his emotions: “It’s very upsetting,” he said. “It’s a lot easier to report on these  things.”  

  Bono, the leader of the band U2 which had to cancel a scheduled concert, angrily denounced the attackers as “cold blooded,” noting that they intentionally targeted young “music fans.”

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   In an analysis of the terrorist attacks, Fabrizio Larousso of Mexico’s La Jornada, characterized this “threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) as an underground river that may overflow at any time.  It bubbles to the surface transforming it into a bloody cyclone in minutes.”

   Larousso recalled the “slaughter” of 9/11 on the Twin Towers and recent attack on Charlie Hebdo, noting that many of these terrorists are educated in Europe or the U.S. and have passports, meaning they have “no need to disguise” themselves.

   Mr. Larousso also highlighted the fact that ISIS and other terrorists are well financed by middle eastern banks, oil magnates and countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

     Pope Francis and other religious leaders expressed profound sadness over the attacks in Paris, denouncing the use of God and religion “to justify use of violence.”

  Local leaders, such as Camden County Clerk, Angel Fuentes; Philadelphia Managing Director Rich Negrin; and Danilo Burgos, aide to Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, all took to social media to express their unity with the people of France, many of them adopting the imagery of the artist Jean Jullien’s Eiffel Tower shaped into a peace symbol.

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York noted that  Albany’s Alfred E. Smith Building and the SUNY System Administration Building were aglow in blue, white and red in “continued solidarity with the people of Paris.”

   Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released a statement on the attacks in Paris, extending “our deepest condolences to the French people and all those affected by these horrific acts of violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with victims of this heartbreaking tragedy and their families.”

 

 

 

 

 

Primer Para Los Veteranos Filadelfia

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  Veterans Parade Honors Greatest Generations

Jim Smith/ElHispano

Philadelphia – In August of 1864, United States Naval forces in the Gulf of Mexico were facing relatively new weaponry: floating mines, known then as Torpedoes.

   As a number of Union naval vessels retreated from the  explosives, Latino Admiral David Farragut blustered at such fears, saying, “Torpedoes. Damn the torpedoes. Four Bells, Captain Drayton, full speed ahead.”

    It was in remembrance of such gallantry and intrepid courage that the city of Philadelphia honored the Latino Veterans – soldiers, marines and naval officers- of Latin American Legion Post 840, and  Veterans from every service and war, Sunday, with the city’s first Veterans Day Parade.

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   Marching from South Broad Street, around City Hall and east on Market Street to Independence Hall, Veteran Wilfredo Gonzalez and Veteran Jose Rivera (USMC,Vietnam) and the rest of the Latin American Legion Post 840 and Ladies Auxiliary were followed by the Spanish-American Law Enforcement Association (SALEA),  as the premier groups marching in Sunday’s Veterans Parade.

   During ceremonies paying tribute to the history of Veterans, at Fifth and Market Streets, the recent Congressional Gold Medal recipient – Puerto Rico’s 65th Infantry Regiment , “Borinqueneers” – were recognized by Judge Pat Duggan, along with Tuskegee Airmen, and survivors of the Battles of the Bulge and Iwo Jima.

  The first-ever Veterans Parade was largely the result of the collaborative efforts of Scott Brown Director of the city Veterans Advisory Commission, First District Congressman Bob Brady and his aide Veteran (USMC) George Perez, Lt. Gov. Stack and his Special Assistant Juvencio Gonzalez – Vet (USMC), Philanthropist and Veteran Gerry Lenfest, City Council Pres. Darrell Clarke and Mayor Nutter.

    As participants in the Veterans Parade, the historic setting of Philadelphia evoked a sense of “honor” for a pair of West Point Cadets – future officers in the U.S. Army- Brandon Latteri and Giovani Perez Ortega, who spoke with El Hispano.  

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   In addition, Neil Sheehan, a former Vietnam War correspondent recently released a collection of photos of what he called the “bloody dawn” of that war.

     While discussing U.S. Army and Marine fighting in Nov., 15 of 1965, he bristled at the notion that the term “greatest generation” is reserved for those who fought in WWII. The men and women who “fought in Vietnam,” Sheehan said, “were as great as any generation that preceded them.  Their misfortune was to be drawn into a bad war.”

Latino Issues at Supreme Court Forum

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Judge Kevin Dougherty & Judge Christine Donohue candidates for Supreme Court.

Judge Kevin Dougherty & Judge Christine Donohue candidates for Supreme Court.

Latino Issues Focus of Supreme Court Candidates

Jim Smith/ElHispano

Philadelphia –  Just two weeks ahead of a November 3rd election that includes the selection of three Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices, a forum at Philadelphia Community College, Saturday, brought together five of the seven candidates.

   On issues ranging from the legality of Hazleton’s 2006 controversial immigrant proposal, Sanctuary cities, Voter ID bills to redistricting and English-Only initiatives, the forum touched on issues that are critical to Pennsylvania’s growing Latino community.

Judge David Wecht, Judge   Paul Panepinto.

Judge David Wecht, Judge Paul Panepinto.

  In introductory statements, Judge David Wecht – currently a Superior Court Judge – referred to a mother who fled Nazi Germany and would meet her husband in the U.S. Air Force.

  A Republican nominated to Allegheny’s Court of Common Pleas by Gov. Rendell, Judith Olson similarly spoke of grandparents who escaped “Bolsheviks” in Russia and Poland.

   Administrative Judge of Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas, Kevin Dougherty recalled his immigrant ancestors arriving by boat at Delaware and Market Streets, and then directed towards the “Irish ghetto in South Philadelphia.”

  “We’re still there” added Dougherty, of an area today populated by many Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants. “But it’s no longer a ghetto. It’s a hard-working community made up of blue collar families.”

  Judge Paul Panepinto, also of Philadelphia, stressed his “independence” and as Judge remained “faithful to my oath.”

   A Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge highly recommended by the state bar, Judge Christine Donohue likewise cited her own gritty background of growing up in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, where her father was a coal miner and mother a seamstress in a dress factory.

   Questioned on the town of Hazleton’s bill to deny permits to landlords or employers who rent to or hire undocumented immigrants, Judge Wecht said, “It’s offensive to our heritage as Americans.” He added that the constitution has protections to combat the attitudes of “temporary majorities.”DSC02402

   Noting the prejudice his own ancestors faced, Kevin Dougherty said such proposals were “repugnant” to any concept of equal justice under the law. As Judges “we protect the voice of the minority.”

   Recalling the “Italian, Polish and Irish” immigrant coal miners of her native Carbon County, Judge Donohue observed, “There is a reason America is called a ‘Melting Pot.’ And it’s a good reason and it’s something we should be proud of. To move away from that tradition is a painful thing to see.”

  Of Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered districts, Judge Panepinto emphasized his capacity to render a “fair decision based on the law.” Judge Olson also said such cases required judges “check their politics at the door.”

 Judge Dougherty argued it was necessary to avoid “dividing communities” and that districts should be “compact and contiguous.”

   “At the end of the day, the people should choose the politicians, the politicians should not choose the people,” added Dougherty to applause.

  Denouncing the gerrymandered districts of the state as a “travesty” Judge Wecht attributed it to partisan Republicans.  

  On the so-called Sanctuary policy implemented under Mayor Nutter, endorsed by Democratic Mayoral candidate Kenney- that limited cooperation with ICE detainers- the candidates appeared largely in accord with the city. Judge Dougherty referred to a practice developed in Family Court that protected immigrant children as “dependents.” So “that child could have an opportunity like my child.”

   Judge Wecht suggested that the city’s police have “enough to do” without taking on the work of federal officials. Judge Donohue noted that detaining an individual who hasn’t been convicted of a crime is “contrary  to our system of justice.”

    Another recurring issue, Voter ID legislation, elicited subtle divergence in opinions. For Republican Judge Olson: “There is no room in any election but one person, one vote.”

   Judge Dougherty acknowledged there are elected officials who seek to impose burdens on the “ability to get into the voting booth,” for socio-economic reasons. “The question is, are those avenues legal and will they stand” constitutional scrutiny.

   “We should be making it easier to vote,” Judge Donohue said. “We need to be certain that citizens in this commonwealth are given  access to the polls that is easy.”

   Citing the Republican opposition to efforts of Governor Wolf and State Secretary Cortes to permit voter registration on-line, Mr. Wecht said, “Republicans don’t want (Philadelphians) to vote or even know that there’s an election.”

A Home for All Veterans/Viviendas en Nuestros Veteranos

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Veterans March on Broad St. to End Homeless Vets. 11% are Latino vets.

Veterans March on Broad St. to End Homeless Vets.
11% are Latino vets.

  Viviendas en Nuestros Veteranos/11% Latino

Jim Smith/El Hispano –  According to the Department of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, nearly one-in-five of the homeless men we pass daily on park benches or huddling together on the Parkway and our streets are Veterans.

   Although the vast majority of homeless vets are of Iraq and Afghanistan, some are Vietnam era (6.3% live below poverty rate).  The homeless veterans span every demographic: 93 percent are male; 49% are white; 34% are African American; 11% are Latino; and 45% are ages 31-50.    

Donning camouflage t-shirts, more than two hundred veterans, vet advocates and housing officials joined WMGK DJ John DeBella, Friday, at a LOVE Park rally highlighting the city’s progress in ending homelessness among local vets.

A maps state-by-state where vets most homeless. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have fewer homeless vets.

A maps state-by-state where vets most homeless. Pennsylvania and New Jersey have fewer homeless vets.

    A “national tragedy” is how former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan characterized the level of homelessness among vets in 2009. Homelessness is defined by the U.S. legal code as those individuals who, “lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence.”

  Since 2010, the number of homeless veterans in the U.S. has declined 33 percent, from 74,770 to 49, 930.  In Philadelphia, the effort to end homelessness among vets has reached what the Philly Vets Home.org described as an “unprecedented” level of success.

WMGK DJ John DeBella  calls attention to fight to end Homeless Vets.

WMGK DJ John DeBella calls attention to fight to end Homeless Vets.

 With collaboration between the Nutter administration, the regional office of HUD, the Veterans Multi-Service Center, VA Medical Center and others, more the 1,200 Philadelphia-area veterans have obtained permanent housing in the last two years; a 90 percent decrease in the number of unsheltered local veterans.

   The impetus for much of this progress came with studies of Homeless Vets by the VA and HUD in the first years of the Obama administration. By 2014 the administration had launched the, “Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness.”

  The ‘Mayors Challenge’ initiative, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama, entailed a collaborative effort to provide permanent housing to veterans which has garnered the support of 210 mayors and county officials across the country.

   “It’s not always about money,” said Jane Vincent, Regional Administrator of HUD.

  Describing Mayor Michael Nutter as one of the many “heroes” in this effort, Ms. Vincent told El Hispano that the Mayor was “one of the earliest mayors to sign on, and he did it without hesitation.” As a result, “Philadelphia is seen around the country as a model.”

  “We want everybody to come in,” said Steve Culbertson, Director of Impact Services. “We’re really working hard to end veterans’ homelessness.”

   While acknowledging the progress made in reducing veterans’ homelessness, the current HUD Secretary Julian Castro says, “We have more work to do. We have an obligation to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home.”

  “The Department of Veterans Affairs and our federal and local partners should be proud of the gains made reducing veterans’ homelessness,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald.   Deb Derricks of VMC organized the event.

St. John Evangelist Church Historic

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Historic Commission Marker for St. John Evangelist Church.

Historic Commission Marker for St. John Evangelist Church.

Lt. Guv, Councilman and Senator Honor St. John’s

JimSmith/ElHispano

Philadelphia – The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission honored St. John the Evangelist Church with a historical marker, Sunday, recognizing the church that has served Center City workers and families for 185 years.

   Councilman Mark Squilla, State Senator Larry Farnese, Lt. Governor Mike Stack and (retired) Judge Felice R. Stack -mother of the Lt. Governor- joined the Historical Commission’s Celeste Morello in paying tribute to a church tucked away between 13th and Market and Chestnut Sts., that served as the Catholic Cathedral of Pennsylvania, Camden County and Delaware from 1838 to 1864.

The vaulted arches and ornate stained-glass and Monachesi frescoes are accented by St. John's Music.

The vaulted arches and ornate stained-glass and Monachesi frescoes are accented by St. John’s Music.

  Pennsylvania Sen. Farnese smiled recalling that as he exited his family home for Sunday’s ceremony, his mother quipped, “So you’re going to mass this morning?”

  Both Councilman Squilla and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack stressed the historical perspective of the church, noting that it had survived “anti-Catholic riots” of the 1840s which left 14 dead, more than fifty injured and caused up to $3.8 million in property damage. During the ensuing years it has continued to be a place of “compassion” that consistently “opened its doors” to immigrants, the poor and even those suffering through an influenza epidemic.

  Within its vaulting arches, ornate stained-glass windows St. John’s was accentuated by the frescoes of artist Nicola Monachesi in 1832.  In 1834 the then-Cathedral served as the venue for the American premier of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor.

  Damaged by fire in 1899, the church was rebuilt in 1902.

   

  

    

32BJ SEIU Takes Chestnut Street

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32bj SEIU Pres. Hector Figueroa & D.Cruz lead march for fair treatment of Philadelphia Janitors.

32bj SEIU Pres. Hector Figueroa & D.Cruz lead march for fair treatment of Philadelphia Janitors.

32BJ SEIU Rally – ‘Fair Wages & Good Jobs’  

JimSmith/ElHispano/

Philadelphia –   A 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU)  janitor of 10 years, Crystal Gonzalez told El Hispano that the dismissal of several Philadelphia union janitors was simply creating more homeless: “We have enough homeless out here. And I try to help them.”

    In a unified effort on behalf of maintenance workers recently fired by new building management at 21st and Chestnut street, nearly 3,000 janitors and supporters of SEIU 32BJ from Boston, New York and Baltimore to Pittsburgh and Washington D.C., marched to LOVE Park, Thursday, demanding reinstatement of the displaced workers and for recognition of union representation they say is essential to fair wages and benefits.

   With union construction workers along Market Street halting work in a symbolic gesture of solidarity, the purple clad SEIU workers were also joined in their march by a host of city officials, including Democratic Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez, Councilmen Mark Squilla, Curtis Jones,  Bill Greenlee, Kenyatta Johnson, W. Goode, Bob Henon and Dennis O’Brien.   

Union Construction workers paused in a gesture of solidarity with SEIU Janitors.

Union Construction workers paused in a gesture of solidarity with SEIU Janitors.

    While earning  $15.40-an-hour working at 16th and Arch (union janitors average $14 to $17.50-an-hour), Ms. Gonzalez says of fellow janitors, “Everyone here lives paycheck to paycheck.”

 “I’d like to see our wages go up every year. I think we’re entitled to that,” she said, adding that 32BJ SEIU is bargaining to maintain the current level of medical and pension benefits.  

   With a 11-year old son in school who suffers with asthma, Ms. Gonzalez noted she especially “depends on (the) medical benefits.” And of the possible changes to the union pension plan, Ms. Gonzalez said, “It’s not fair.”

32bjSEIU Pres. Figueroa urged nonunion janitors to

32bjSEIU Pres. Figueroa urged nonunion janitors to “join” the unionized force, supported by Mayor candidate J. Kenney and Council Pres. Darrell Clarke.

   “The kind of work that we do is labor work that breaks our bodies  down. It’s very hard pushing or lifting vacuum cleaners and other equipment around. And some of us can’t even make it to retirement,”  Ms. Gonzalez explained. “When I retire I’d like to have my pension.  A lot of these people have been working 20 to 30 years.”

  The leadership of 32BJ SEIU janitors gathered in force to bolster negotiating efforts for fair wages and benefits on behalf of Philadelphia’s Janitors.  The SEIU is negotiating a new contract with Building Operators Labor Relations Division Building Owners & Managers Assoc. of Philadelphia, as the earlier contract expires on October 15th.

  “The only way you can assure fair wages and fair working conditions is by collective bargaining, by standing together,” Jim Kenney insisted .  “The only real, true power and real, true effectiveness is all of you standing together. We cannot thrive as a city if over a quarter of our neighbors are mired in poverty.”

  “Everything I’ve become has to do with the labor movement and my parents having access to good wages and good benefits,”  Kenney said.

   Gesturing in the direction of 2116 Chestnut Street, Daisy Cruz, Mid-Atlantic district leader 32BJ SEIU said, “At this beautiful building, about two months ago, our workers were thrown out -of their jobs like trash. Greystar, (new building managers) decided this, and it wasn’t because they didn’t do a good job or the tenants didn’t love them. They were working hard every night.”

    “We’re here and we’re going to fight to the end for what we deserve,’ asserted Cruz. “These are the jobs that take care of our families, take care of our children, and (enable us) to be the backbone of our neighborhoods.”

   Calling on replacement nonunion janitors at 21st and Chestnut Sts. to leave their jobs and “join us,” the President of 32BJ SEIU, Hector Figueroa declared: “Philadelphia is a union town.”

   “We are on the move and fighting to raise America with good jobs,”  Figueroa continued. “Our pay must keep pace with the cost of living or we all fall behind. These are the kinds of jobs that keep communities going and that build cities.”

         “Look around,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President 32BJ SEIU. “Why are we  standing here today making this street purple? We’re standing here in one of the richest neighborhoods, bought up by some of the richest people and near one of the richest buildings in our city.”

   “We know these people because we deal with them every day, and in a way they don’t know us,” continued Morgan. “All of us in 32BJ SEIU,” from Boston, Pittsburgh and New York to Jersey and Philadelphia. “We all know each other because we come from the same thing. We work  for ours, we work for our neighborhoods, and we work for pay.”

  “We know them and their billions of dollars; and we know that they will try to take what little we have if they get the chance,”  Morgan said.  “And these people threw our people out in the street. But we’ve taken these streets back.”

Pope Francis: Rocky from Rome

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Pope Francis received overwhelming cheers from hundreds of thousands in Philadelphia who waited several hours.

Pope Francis received overwhelming cheers from hundreds of thousands in Philadelphia who waited several hours.

 Pope Francis and World Meeting of Families

Jim Smith/ElHispano

Philadelphia –  Landing in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families (WMF), Saturday, Pope Francis culminated the final leg of his whirlwind schedule and was greeted by Bishop Shanahan High School’s version of the theme music of the movie “Rocky.”

   The music struck the right chord for this humble and often humorous Latino son of Italian Immigrants who has fought to restore a church that -like Rocky Balboa or even Joe Frazier- has taken blow after blow and kept on fighting. As reported by the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the Rocky music “is the emblem of the city of Philadelphia.”

   For Richard Negrin, the City’s Managing Director and a Cuban immigrant whose Father was gunned down of  political opponents, the Argentinian-born pontiff’s visit was “one of the greatest days in the history of our great city.”

Philadelphia's 'Viva Mas

Philadelphia’s ‘Viva Mas” got the crowd dancing and were “honored” to be part of WMF.

  Deputy Clerk for Camden County, Angel Fuentes – a former altar boy who often speaks of the deep faith of his Puerto Rican-born mother – had signs made offering ‘Bienvenido Pope Francis.” Fuentes carried this message of  ‘welcome’ as he and his family arrived in the city by walking across a closed Ben Franklin Bridge.

   In the midst of hundreds of thousands gathered on a sun-splashed Franklin Parkway, Teresa Julio of Venezuela spoke of a Pope who has been a key in reviving her own Catholic faith and restoring the church itself to preeminence in the “hearts” of its 1.2 billion or more members. “Pope Francis has spoken in a way that has brought people together,” explained Julio. “When you have such unity the people of the church have power.”

 Noting that many had abandoned the church, Ms. Julio suggested that Pope Francis has “given us a good message.  It’s the best time to be a Catholic.”

The son of Mexican immigrants and a native of Corona, California, Josue Gonzalez told

Gonzalez family from California, Josue wanting his children to be inspired by Pope Francis.

Gonzalez family from California, Josue wanting his children to be inspired by Pope Francis.

El Hispano that he – like millions of other Catholics- had “left the Church for a long time.  And my wife was the same.”

  Now with a family of four sons and two daughters Mr. Gonzalez found himself drawn back to the faith of his father, something which he attributed to the influence of the two most recent popes: “ I’m the only one working, so it’s a struggle sometimes.  But the church has really helped in reconstructing our lives.”

   “Just being here in Philadelphia is a miracle itself,” he added, as he and his four sons watched several performances of Saturday’s daylong WMF Franklin Parkway festival.

  “I’ve seen Pope Benedict before and every time I see the pope I feel a grace that has helped me continue living,” said Mr. Gonzalez. “I want my children to experience that same feeling.”

  Of Pope Benedict XVI, Gonzalez praised him for providing a certain intellectual heft and clarity to church teachings. “Pope Benedict was mind-blowing.”

Sisters on the Parkway. From all over the world Nuns participated in WMF event in Philadelphia.

Sisters on the Parkway. From all over the world Nuns participated in WMF event in Philadelphia.

   “But Pope Francis is more grounded and down-to-earth,” he added. “He’s putting things into action that the other pope wrote.”

  Pedro Rodriguez, a city official and radio commentator, posted a social media observation on the sudden resignation of the visibly moved House Speaker John Boehner: “The Papal effect.”

  Another Latino leader from Lancaster, Norm Bristol Colon, lauded the unifying message of Pope Francis, saying he “made history with an inspiring and aspiring address to a Congress divided by ideologies.”  

  Among the early Family Festival performances included a medley of diverse music and dance: including St. Raymond’s Choir -a predominantly African American parish, Indonesian and Philippine dance companies, Nigerian Catholic choir, a Syro Malabar Indian Catholic Church -with ties to Syria- and Philadelphia’s Viva Mas.

   After performing three up-tempo numbers that prompted some in the Parkway audience to dancing, Viva Mas left to to boisterous applause.

  “I grew up just five minutes from here,” said Eric Serrano of Viva Mas. “And to see all of these people out here to support this cause, it’s just an honor.”

  “When you see all these people from all over the world, and they’re so calm and at peace,” added Serrano. “It makes you wonder why it can’t be like this every day.”

   “It’s surreal,” enthused Raul Figueroa. “You feel just blessed and overwhelmed to be here with all these different cultures coming together.” The other members of Viva Mas: Eddie, Eli, Raul, Mike and Eric, laughed in agreement.

Philadelphia: Today We Are All Mexicans

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The elegant costumes were part of Mexican Independence Day in Philadelphia.

The elegant costumes were part of Mexican Independence Day in Philadelphia.

TODOS SOMOS MEXICANOS

JimSmith/ElHiSpano

Philadedelphia – “We are all Mexicans.’ This was the prevailing message at Mexican Independence Day festivities, Sunday, as some seven to eight thousand Mexican families received a heartfelt message of welcome from Mayor Michael Nutter and a host of other state and city officials.

       A little more than a week since a photograph of a three-year-old Syrian refugee whose body had washed ashore moved European leaders to open their doors, the warm images of Mexican families gathered at Penn’s Landing for a 205th Mexican Independence celebration evoked a sense of camaraderie from officials whose own families had come here from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Italy, Korea and elsewhere.

     Decrying the much publicized remarks of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Philadelphia Mayor Nutter asserted that such “people who may not have lived a diverse life,” are clearly “not qualified to lead the United States under any circumstances.”

  “You have friends here in Philadelphia, you have friends here in Pennsylvania,” added  Mayor Nutter. “Do not let anyone put you down. You should be proud of who you are. We stand with you.”

   A parade of city and state officials voiced similar sentiments, including Pennsylvania State Secretary Pedro Cortes, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera; Special Asst. to the Lt. Governor, Juvencio Gonzalez; Councilman David Oh, Councilman Mark Squilla and Mayoral Candidate Jim Kenney.

     City Councilman Squilla lauded the Mexican Independence day as an “amazing event.”

Tradtitions, like this Mexican dance were part of festivities that public officials urged immigrants to hold on to.

Traditions like this Mexican dance were part of festivities that public officials urged immigrants to hold on to.

Leticia Roa Nixon, led this group in traditional indigenous dance routine on Sunday.

Leticia Roa Nixon, led this group in traditional indigenous dance routine on Sunday.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary, Pedro Rivera joined Gov. Wolf and other officials in urging Students to study and hold on to their culture.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary, Pedro Rivera joined Gov. Wolf and other officials in urging Students to study and hold on to their culture.

   Noting the “well-behaved” mixture of families, older adults and children were all having “a good time, Councilman Squilla enthused: “This is what Philadelphia is all about and you make great.”

   “Always hold on to your culture, hold on to your language and hold on to your values,” added the South Philadelphia Councilman.

    After recalling his own immigrant ancestors from Ireland who  had either ‘starved” or fled a blight that hit their potato crops before the U.S. Civil War, Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney said, “They told us to go back where we came from.”

   “They didn’t want to hire us.” So signs of “No Irish Need Apply” appeared in business windows. “They burned down two of our churches and tried to burn down a third,” added Kenney. “But we fought back.”

  “They didn’t want us here, the same way they don’t want you here,”  continued Kenney.  “But guess what? We want you here.  We’re not going to turn our back on you.”

   Echoing Councilman Squilla, Kenney recalled that his ancestors had their “Gallic” language “beaten” out of them, and urged the new arrivals from Mexico, “not to lose your language and don’t lose your culture.”

   “I’m so happy you’ve chosen Philadelphia as your home.”  

  Since opening her 9th street law office in 2010, Elaine Cheung, Esq. has represented Spanish and Chinese-speaking clients on a variety of immigration and deportation issues. Of the comments of The Donald on Mexicans coming to the U. S.A., she said: “He is really out of touch with who immigrants are and who is actually coming to the shores of America and airports of the United States.”

    “Before it was starving Irish people and later it was Jews fleeing Nazi occupied Europe or Italians.” The people who are coming from Central America and Mexico, Ms. Cheung continue, have similar motivations: “They are coming to make a better life for their children and families, and for economic reasons.”

   “A lot of Central Americans are escaping violence and danger; and whatever perilous journeys they are embarking on is less dangerous than what they have left at home.”  

   “So when (Trump) says the people coming across the Mexican border are criminals and rapists, he is out of touch with reality, and  he obviously doesn’t have experience working with immigrants. I don’t think he can win without the Latino vote.”

   The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Attorney Cheung added, “The people who come as immigrants are the people who are more courageous and more entrepreneurial in nature.”

A Tree in Philadelphia for Pope Francis

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A White Oak Tree planted at St. Charles Seminary in honor of Pope Francis.

A White Oak Tree planted at St. Charles Seminary in honor of Pope Francis.

White Oak Tree & ‘Care for Our Common Home’

JimSmith/El Hispano

Philadelphia – The Archdioceses of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput joined the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), Tuesday, in planting the 500,000th tree at St. Charles Seminary, part and parcel of PHS’s goal of planting one million trees.

   Just four weeks ahead of the much anticipated arrival of Pope Francis to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, Sept. 26 -27, the White Oak tree was also blessed in tribute to the Church’s “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.”  The day is an acknowledgment by this first Latin American Pope of the Church’s commitment to an embattled ecosystem.

   In his recently issued encyclical, “Laudato Si, the Care of Our Common Home,” Pope Francis addressed his concern for the environment, festooning his thinking in the Church’s biblical and theologically-based dedication to an understanding of nature as a reflection of the spiritual world. Pope Francis borrowed from St. Francis of Assisi in referring to mother earth as a sister: “She sustains and governs us and who produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”   

   While the unequivocal language of the encyclical has drawn criticism from corporate executives and conservatives alike, Pope Francis says that the issue has reached a “crisis.” The Argentinian Pope largely attributes the harm inflicted on the environment to our “irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

  “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will,” writes Pope Francis, who repeatedly links the economic and business decisions to the moral and spiritual  realms. “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.”

Students work  with Philly Rising to clean up city steets.

Students work with Philly Rising to clean up city steets.

  After referring to an old testament ideal, he argues, “we have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth,” and that “our very bodies are made up of her elements,.”

 Drawing a comparison to an earlier nuclear threat, Pope Francis contends the world is teetering on the brink of “global environmental deterioration.”

 While Pope Francis is often deemed a revolutionary figure, his encyclical repeatedly cites his papal predecessors, from Pope Leo XIII to Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI.

  In warning of an “ecological catastrophe” due to the “explosion of industrial civilization,” Pope Francis noted that Pope Paul VI stressed the “urgent need or a radical change in the conduct of humanity.”

   Pope Paul VI said that the most extraordinary scientific advances, and technical abilities and “most astonishing economic growth, unless accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitely turn against man.”

  From the popular Pope John Paul II he recalled a sharp rebuke to those who “see no other meaning in their natural  environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption.” The Polish pontiff recommended, “safeguarding moral conditions for an authentic human ecology.”

   Pope Francis then recognizes his immediate predecessor, Pope Benedict, who noted that the natural environment has been “gravely damaged by our irresponsible  behavior.”

   A theme that spans across many of Pope Benedict’s reflections, he suggest a singular fault line: “The notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless.”

  “We have forgotten that man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself.  Man does not create himself.  He is spirit and will, but also nature.”

  JS.- Please accept an apology for errors in the print version. As another Pope said, “always regard the writer’s end…If the means be just and the conduct true, applause in spite of trivial faults is due.”