Viva Boriqua! UC celebrates Puerto Rico Discovery Day

Most Americans are familiar with the historical significance of Christopher Columbus’ original discovery of the “New World” (which was actually San Salvador) in 1492.

But perhaps many aren’t aware that a scant year later, in 1493, Columbus made a second trip West and docked his boat on Córcega Beach, on the Western shore of a small, as of yet uncharted island. The Taino Indians who lived on the island called their home “Borikén” (thus “Boriqua”) and Columbus dubbed it “Puerto Rico.”

And it was in celebration of this discovery that a crowd gathered last week in Union City in the park across from City Hall.

Union City Mayor Brian Stack, Commissioner Michael Leggiero and Deputy Director of Public Affairs Lucio Fernandez were joined by members of the public and distinguished guests in celebrating the 510th Anniversary of the discovery of Puerto Rico, an island that has produced some of the most famous, creative and proud people to ever grace the cities and communities of the United States.

The actual date of Puerto Rico Discovery Day is Nov. 19, but because of the death of Union City Mayor Brian Stack’s father, the ceremony was moved to Monday of last week.

Stack emphasized the pride of the Puerto Ricans in his speech to the small crowd. Puerto Rico has produced a fair share of famous and important figures over the years, including: singer/actor Ricky Martin, actress Chita Rivera, baseball legend Roberto Clemente, guitarist Jose Feliciano, the late actor Raul Julia, musician Tito “El Rey” Puente and others.

Said Stack in his speech, “Puerto Rico has given us so many wonderful artists, musicians and actors, but her most important gift is her people, the people that live in our neighborhoods and enrich our city. Puerto Ricans are ingrained in and are an integral part of American culture.”

Added Stack, “It is wonderful to have Puerto Rican people here in Union City. Whether they want to be involved in politics or doing volunteer work, they are welcomed here in Union City and are welcomed to serve in any capacity.”

Stack then mentioned that Commissioner Christopher Irizarry, who has always been introduced as a Cuban, is actually half Cuban and half Puerto Rican. According to Stack, Irizarry’s mother is Cuban and his father is Puerto Rican.

UC Puerto Rican recognized

The second half of the ceremony was dedicated to recognizing a Union City resident who, to the Union City commissioners, has exemplified what it means to be a citizen of Union City and what it means to be a Puerto Rican.

Long time Union City resident Rosa Sanchez was given a plaque proclaiming her the 2003 “Puerto Rican Citizen of the Year” and helping raise the Puerto Rican flag. Said Union City Commissioner Michael Leggiero in his speech, “Rosa Sanchez has lived for 33 years in Union City and worked her way up in the Roosevelt School, from being a volunteer aide to a teacher’s aide. She is known for being always busy with some activity, and she never slows down. She exemplifies what it means to be a good citizen.”

Leggiero presented Sanchez with a proclamation and a beaming Sanchez approached the podium and proclaimed, “I am so happy. What can I say, I love all of you. I love everybody!”

Sanchez was surrounded by her family, notably, her daughter Farrah and her husband “Fifo.”

Said Sanchez in a post-ceremony interview, “I am very proud and happy. I love this city. I have been here for 33 years and I am proud to say I am from Union City. This is my second home. I think I will probably die here, not in Puerto Rico – it’s too hot!”


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