Making Flag Raising History - Puerto Rico


photo credit: Alias Ragsdale


“Viva Puerto Rico!”

These were just some of the celebratory sounds heard on City Hall’s front lawn Saturday morning. The Puerto Rican community of Clifton and surrounding areas convened for a celebration with music, dance, and grand fellowship.

Community leader, Clifton resident, and music promoter Felicia Velasquez hosted this event, marking it as the first-ever Puerto Rican flag-raising to take place in the City of Clifton. Angel Laboy, another active Puerto Rican of Passaic County who is in a Latin band himself, was the event's Master of Ceremonies. The program began with the recognition of special guests and dignitaries. City Council members Rosemary Pino and Mary Sadrakula were present along with Board of Education Commissioners Fahim Abedrabbo, Richie Mejia, Anthony Santiago, and Alan Paris. Candidates for the Board of Education Joseph Siano, Cameron Hebron, Juan Pabon, and Tanya Suarez were also in attendance.

Prospect Park Councilwoman Esther Perez brought certificates from state legislators commending the event, and the Passaic County Sheriff's Department was represented by Undersheriff Humberto Cuadrado. Clifton City Manager Nick Villano was present, greeting individuals and welcoming them to City Hall. Mayor Ray Grabowski gave a grand welcome to the community and many were amazed that he delivered it in Spanish.

Following the mayor, Angel Laboy read a description of the Puerto Rican flag and explained its meaning. The white star, Laboy said, represents the commonwealth. The blue in the triangle represents the sky and ocean surrounding the island, with the triangle itself symbolizing the three branches of the commonwealth’s republican form of government. Laboy recounted a historical event that took place on December 22, 1895, where 59 Puerto Ricans gathered at “Chimney Corner Hall” in Manhattan. The group came together to promote the idea of independence from Spain. Clifton’s first-ever flag-raising signified the victory and success of Puerto Ricans on and off of the island.

Entertainment ensued with special selections from the statewide Latin band, Mambo Swing. As classic songs like “Desnudate Mujer” and “Donde Estan esos Amigos” played, people stood and began to dance. Their joyful and prideful spirit filled the air as everywhere you turned someone was hugging, taking pictures with, or greeting someone else.

Board of Education Commissioner and proud Puerto Rican-American Anthony Santiago spoke with us about what this meant to him. “For me, being of Puerto Rican heritage, I’m very proud to be here for the first flag raising.” He went on to discuss how this is as much an American celebration as a Puerto Rican one because we all live in the same community and are sharing in culture. Event organizer Felicia Velasquez was also proud to be here as part of Clifton's history. Her comments concluded with, “Viva Puerto Rico!”

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