Esta La Bandera de Puerto Rico

Columbus made more than one trip.

Most of us, thanks to a famous poem, remember "Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety two."

Then, he came back, and discovered Puerto Rico the next year.

Our Hispanic neighbors in Westfield have been here for more than three generations. They've become as much a part of our community as our other immigrants--including the Polish, the Irish, the Slovaks and, now, our newest immigrants from the Ukraine.

Westfield's Puerto Rican community celebrated the discovery of that beautiful island recently, in a ceremony on the steps of city hall. It was so cold we all wished we were in San Juan. But, it was a marvelous celebration nonetheless.

Complete with the raising of the Puerto Rican flag and the singing of the national anthem, and followed by a reception at the Westfield YMCA, it was the third time Westfield's Spanish American Association has held the celebration.

The theme was unity, with Hilda Colon, president of the Westfield Spanish American Association, urging members to band together, to show the rest of the community that they deserve a voice, that they should live responsibly, and remember to vote. That, basically, they are a responsible part of a community that works, plays and prays together.

"Unity, unity, unity," she declared.

Wait a minute. What's missing.

Here we have a community celebration. Live music. Flags waving. Children, parents, grandparents. Right on the City Hall steps. The Spanish American Association turned out in force. The Army National Guard did color guard honors.


You were missing.

The Irish, the Slovaks and the Swedes were represented by your Mayor, your Senator and, yes, your Representative, too. My husband attended, perhaps as a token of the German community. And Harry Rock, who hosted the reception at the Y was there, too. Having never spent much time thinking about people's ancestors in my life, I'm not sure what group Harry represented.

There were some city council members--Adam Liptak, Leonard Burlingame, Barbara Swords.

Is there a theme here? Have I forgotten anyone? I don't think so. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've listed every Anglo that was there. Unity?

Next year, I hope you'll take the time to join the party. Raise the flag. Sing some songs. And get to know your neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, and speaking of Harry Rock, hats off to the YMCA for hosting the reception. And, hats off to all of the YMCAs of Massachusetts for the work they do.

Last year, the 34 Ys in Massachusetts served 466,868 people, with 234,735 of them under the age of 18. The Ys put 10,387 community volunteers to work. And, they raised $13,202,294 in private funding.

The money's important. Because, the YMCAs turn no one away because of inability to pay.

And, when I had office hours at the Boys and Girls Club recently, I discovered another immigrant community--Chinese, Ukraine, a great selection of neat people--all learning English. The Y's involved in this project too, providing childcare while the parents attend class.

Like I said, it's fun to get to know your neighbors. Diversity. Unity.

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