Dozens gathered outside of City Hall Monday to witness the raising of the Puerto Rican flag as a celebration of Puerto Rican Heritage Week, but for Hispanics and Latinos in attendance the ceremony had a little more special meaning.
“Every year it’s great,” said Julio Olmo. “It gives us the boost that we need and reminds us where we came from, what we’re doing and where we’re going.”
Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez, the first Latino/Puerto-Rican elected to a seat in District City Council, led the ceremony. Sanchez was accompanied by Council President Darrell L. Clarke and other members of the council.
The hour-long ceremony included the playing of the Puerto Rican national anthem as those in the crowd waved their own personal flags as a symbol of pride and anticipation.
“It means a lot since I was born in Puerto Rico,” said Orlando Rendon, a Vietnam veteran. “It keeps me in touch with the island and our culture. Every time I see it I feel like going back to Puerto Rico.”
The ceremony kicks off Puerto Rican Heritage Week, which culminates with a parade on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Sunday. This will be the 50th anniversary of the popular parade, which features marching groups, celebrities, performers and a day full of music and dancing. The raising of the flag is aimed to unite Latinos and Hispanics all over the community and celebrate their rich history.
Every year it gets a little bit better,” said Rendon. “And since they honored Brian Lorenzo this year it had a little more special meaning.”
Brian Lorenzo was the Philadelphia police officer who was killed by a drunk driver on July 7 near the Cottman Avenue interchange. Lorenzo, whose nickname was “B-Lo,” was a 23-year veteran of the force.
His younger brother, Manny, is a Philadelphia police officer in the 25th District and was in attendance at the ceremony alongside Lorenzo’s wife. Councilwoman Quionones-Sanchez and other members of the council honored Lorenzo and presented his wife and brother with a certificate.
When the Puerto Rican flag was finally raised, cameras snapped and the crowd cheered as many made their way inside City Hall for an after-gathering.
“I think it’s great that Latinos can get together and recognize Latinos and Puerto Ricans that have been successful,” said Willie Sierra, president of the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association. “People need to know that Latinos can have a positive impact on society.”