Focus is on unity as St. Croix celebrates its Hispanic ties
Published: October 4, 2012
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ST. CROIX - "In Difficult Times, Unity is the Key to Success" is the theme of this year's observance of Hispanic Heritage Month and Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Friendship weekend.
Right in the middle of Hispanic Heritage month, the territory is beginning a celebration that Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders have been celebrating for decades as they fuse their common bonds and relationship that have grown into a new culture.
"This is a celebration for Virgin Islanders as we recognize and celebrate not just the Puerto Ricans in our community, but all Hispanics and the influence they have had on our culture," said Aymee Santana, secretary of the VIPR Friendship Committee. "We have a unique blend that emphasizes the food, music, dance and even the language of our Hispanic friends."
National Hispanic Heritage Month takes place from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture.
President Ronald Reagan expanded the week-long celebration in 1988 to cover a 30-day period. The dates were chosen because eight Latin American countries celebrate the anniversary of their independence between Sept. 15 and 21.
While National Hispanic Heritage Month is at its midway point, Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship celebrations launched last weekend with ceremonies, art shows, cultural festival, church services and much more.
The Virgin Islands celebrates V.I.-P.R. Friendship Day on Monday. The holiday was created in the 1960s to recognize the unique relationship between Virgin Islanders and Puerto Ricans, who were at the time the largest group of migrants to the territory, particularly on St. Croix.
"This is the time we pause and reflect on the contributions that Hispanics have made in the fabric of American society," Santana said. "There are many people who migrated here from Puerto Rico and Vieques and other Hispanic areas for different reasons, and from the time they came here, they felt at home because of the closeness we have as a community," she said.
Santana said the committee has progressively been trying to expand the activities to include the youth by bringing some of the events into the school.
"We have to keep the culture alive by passing the techniques to the next generation," Santana said. "It is good that as adults we display the importance learning the cultural food, dance, music and traditions.
An Urban Bomba workshop will be conducted at Pearl B. Larsen School and Lew Muckle School on Friday. The workshop will give students a first-hand look at cultural dancing, and some of the steps also have a hip-hop flare, Santana said.
An adult Bomba workshop also will be conducted today at 5 p.m. at the Herbert Grigg Home for the Aged.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. will host an invitation-only reception Saturday to honor outstanding members of the Hispanic and Virgin Islands communities for their contributions in strengthening the ties the bind the two groups of people together.
"We have a lot of people in our community who work hard to preserve our cultures, and we have to show appreciation for them and all that they do," Santana said.
This year's honorees are Edwin Rivera, Asta Williams, Mirza Saldana and Camille Macedon
The events traditionally have wrapped up with a three-day village featuring Crucian and Latin bands and dancers and lots of food, but this year, because of budget constraints, Santana said the event has been pared down to one day.
The celebration will end with the cultural exchange day from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Agriculture Fair Grounds.
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- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email email@example.com.