The second keynote speaker, José Feliciano, vocalized the ethnic pride the best when he emphasized “All Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens,” and when he reiterated “soy un Jibaro.” The audience would reply with beaming faces and a roar of applause.
As this year’s spotlighted nationality went to the Puerto Ricans, this year’s Breakfast would pay tribute to the Puerto Rican culture by chronicling its past, present, and looking toward its future.
Loud cheers filled the DeLucas Place in the Park hall when U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown called U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor humble and highly qualified.
“This could make all of you who are Puerto Rican proud and could make all us Americans proud: she has had more experience as a judge than anyone that's been nominated for the United States Supreme Court in the last 100 years,” Brown said.
The Breakfast had two keynote speakers—Eugenio “Gene” Rivera, a clinical social worker in Connecticut, and Feliciano, chairman of the Hispanic Roundtable. Rivera, of Ponce, spoke about the “genesis” of the Puerto Rican community in Lorain. Feliciano, of Yauco, spoke about the Puerto Ricans’ current significance and future as a growing community.
Rivera wrote about the first Puerto Ricans to settle in Lorain, published in the book The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives.
He said the first busload of Puerto Ricans arrived in Lorain in the late 1940s. Roughly 200 lived within the barracks at the Lorain National Tube and worked the steel mills.
Unable to speak English and having to adapt to a new, colder climate posed a great challenge for the early Puerto Ricans to settle in Lorain. But their problems did not end there, Rivera explained. Housing was scarce, and their social and religious needs were not being met, Rivera said.
But by 1954, the number of Puerto Ricans in Lorain would quickly grow to 2,700, and with growing numbers came great housing expansions.
Without the approval of Lorain City Council, the early Puerto Ricans began to construct houses extending multiple streets in an area they called “El Campito.”
The Puerto Rican and city leaders soon resolved their legal disputes, and the housing district grew, Rivera said. La Capilla del Sagrado Corazon opened soon after, serving their religious needs.