Co-op City Residents Celebrate Their Heritage

By Deanna Garcia

Co-op City residents celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with an afternoon of dance, music and food.

The event kicked off with women in brightly colored dresses twirling their countries’ flags. They represented the Dominican Republic, Spain, Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Chile, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, and Venezuela.

The event, organized by the Spanish American Community Club, continued with Casa Boricua, Puerto Rican folklore, Ramitas (Little Branches) de Borinquen, Mariachi Juarez Show representing Mexico, and Ray Martinez with Latin Jazz.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. stopped by. Diaz said he was proud to see that Co-op City was expressing the diversity within its community. “We all know that being Latino is diverse,” he said, “We come in all kinds of music.”

Diaz said that Hispanic Heritage Month meant celebrating those who fought for political positions that Latinos could not obtain back in the day. “They fought hard when it wasn’t popular to be Latino,” Diaz said about Bronx-born, Puerto Rican politicians, such as Ramon Velez, Olga Mendez, and others.

Vivian Melendez, 78, a Co-op City resident for 28 years, was enjoying the afternoon with her husband. “This is the time for everyone to come together and remember everything that we have suffered throughout the years,” she said. “We cannot allow anyone to attack us for who we are.”

Co-op City is a multicultural neighborhood. According to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey, 28 percent of residents are Hispanic. The top two Hispanic subgroups in the neighborhood are Puerto Rican, with 54.3 percent, and Dominican with 31.8 percent.

Even though many residents were enjoying their celebration and time together, a long-time member of the Spanish American Community Club, Nelly Rivera, felt that this year’s event was not as good as the year before. “I liked last year better because you had the men dancing with the women,” she said about the opening performance.

Alfonso Gonzalez, president of the Spanish American Community Club, was running around the event to make sure that everyone was enjoying themselves. “I plan events like these for the entertainment of the community,” he said. He went around to each table with members of the club to hand out empanadas, papas rellenas, quipes, and roasted chicken.

Aida Gonzalez, chairperson of the Spanish American Community Club, said they have been doing the event in Co-op City for the past 20 years. “We try to get donations from the different companies in order to be able to give them refreshments and plates of food,” Gonzalez said. “It brings me a lot of memories about Puerto Rico and when I was born. It’s like bringing part of my country to this place,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez did not want the guests to forget where their families came from. She said with tears in her eyes, “We’re American citizens but don’t forget your own country, your own nationality, and your language.”

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