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Hispanic Heritage Month opens with Puerto Rico Senate President McClintock

By Ingrid M. Rivera, Special to La Prensa

CLEVELAND - Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock-Hernández opened the 2008 Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations in Cleveland, Monday, in an almost-filled-to-capacity hall within the City Hall Rotunda.

Councilman Joe Santiago, Mayor Frank Jackson, Councilman Kevin Conwell, PR Senator Kenneth D. McClintock Hernandez, and Lorain Councilman Dennis Flores
Photos by
Antonio Barrio of Frame Works

Keynote speaker McClintock stressed the need for unity among the various ethnic groups within the Latino community, in order to become an empowered group.

“If we Hispanics can stand together, then the sky is the limit. This 21st Century can truly be el siglo hispano in the United States of America,” McClintock said, referring to the Census Bureau's projection that by the year 2050, Latinos will form 30 percent of the total national population.

Hispanic Heritage Month, running from Sept. 15 to Oct.15, is a national recognition of the Latino contributions to the United States. The observance, authorized by U.S. Congress, dates back to 1968. The observance dates were chosen because the period covers the anniversary of independence for several Latino countries.

“What makes us a great city is our diversity. Cleveland would not be as strong as it is today if it weren't for the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson.

This year's Hispanic Heritage Month theme in the local city celebrations is “Hispanics: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Blaine A. Giffin, executive director of the community relations board under the Jackson administration, said the theme is to honor Latino contributions of the past, present and future in the areas of “education, business, health and government, to name a few.”

Several Latinos, politicians, and other community members were recognized for their contributions to the Latino community. This year's Hispanic Heritage Month was dedicated to Sister Alicia Alvarado, of Puerto Rican descent.

Antonio Ramos, of Puerto Rican descent and co-founder of the San Lorenzo Club and the Liga Roberto Clemente, was awarded “Yesterday” Latino contributor.

Andrés González, creator of cultural and Spanish-language programs for Latino serving agencies, was awarded the “Today” Latino contributor.

Dariana Y. Delgado, of Puerto Rican descent and staff member of Cleveland's Latino Newspaper, El Sol de Cleveland as well as the co-host of the Latino variety show, El Sol TV, was awarded the “Tomorrow” Latino contributor.

Grupo Isla del Encanto
, a Puerto Rican Folkloric dance group, gave this year's cultural performance; they danced to Plena music. The dance groups' director, Aurea García said the group's main goal is “to keep the culture going. Most kids nowadays don't listen to their (folkloric) Spanish music. It lets them know their culture.” García, of Puerto Rican descent, said the group mainly performs to the music genres of Puerto Rico but also perform to other Latino folkloric dance styles.

One performer, Jamsel Meléndez, 15 of Puerto Rican descent, said “the dancing, the cultural clothing, the dance styles and the girls” are what he enjoys most about the group.

Belinda I. Saldaña, deputy press secretary under the Jackson administration, said she has attended the city's Hispanic Heritage Month events for three consecutive years. Saldaña, of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, said these events give Latinos “an opportunity to share with the rest of the United States what it is to be Hispanic, who we are and the contributions we have made.”

Latinos are the largest ethnic or race minority group and the fastest-growing minority in the country. McClintock said Latinos are a powerful force but must unite and work with other U.S. citizens from every background to “become a totally constructive force.”

McClintock, who also came to Ohio to campaign for Sen. Barack Obama on Sept. 14, stressed the importance of voting and urged the crowd to vote.

“I've been in politics long enough to know that when you don't vote, you don't matter,” McClintock said. “Your concerns are ignored, your needs go un-addressed, and even your fundamental rights may be endangered if you fail to exercise the power of the ballot,” said McClintock, of the New Progressive Party in Puerto Rico.

After the speech, McClintock spoke about plans for helping those in the path of destruction of Hurricane Gustav and Ike.

“I spoke to the vice president of the Puerto Rico Farmers Association, and we are entering into a partnership, and the senators are entering into a partnership, to collect food and clothing that can be sent to Haiti, Cuba, and to Texas, to help out in their time of need,” McClintock said.

The next Hispanic Heritage Month event will be the 3rd Annual Hispanic Public Safety and Veterans Day on Sept. 27 at 11 a.m., at the Cleveland State University Cole Center, 3100 Chester Avenue, and the Closing Ceremony will take place October 10 at 6 p.m. at the San Lorenzo Club, 3121 W. 33 St., Cleveland. 

Lucy Torres, Hispanic Liaison to the Jackson administration, said events that recognize the Latino culture and contributions are very important. “In this month the values and culture of my people, my Hispanic people, are emphasized, transcending all cultures, all color, all races. We are celebrating the contributions of each one of the [ethnic] groups.”


photos by Antonio Barrio of Frame Works  





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