The Cuban people, their culture, and their zest for independence were honored on Friday, May 24, with a flag raising ceremony in front of North Bergen Town Hall, a ceremony in which several West New York residents were honored as well.
In fact, the West New York region has the largest percentage of Cuban Americans outside of Miami.
North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco paid homage to a community that contributes so much to the fiber of North Bergen and neighboring towns.
“They [Cuban immigrants] just add so much to the county,” said Sacco. “They were the first sustained wave of immigration we had in years.”
Though many have moved on, according to the mayor, “there’s still a strong core of Cubans here. They are professionals. They are hard workers. They’re just a very positive force in North Bergen.”
In North Bergen, a commissioner, the municipal clerk, and personnel director are all Cuban-Americans, according to the mayor.
Sal Vega, West New York mayor from 2006-2011, attended the event. ”It’s important,” he said. “It’s nice to see, a tradition.”
Vega cited the high concentration of Cubans in the Hudson County towns of Union City, West New York, and North Bergen as reason enough to keep the commemoration ongoing.
“They are professionals. They are hard workers. They’re just a very positive force in North Bergen.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
He said it is ironic that the United States is the most Democratic nation in the world and yet only 90 miles away, Cuba’s residents “can’t freely use the Internet, can’t freely travel and have restrictions on what they read and see on television.”
The activities commemorated May 20, the day Cuba received its independence from Spain in 1902. The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 brought colonization by the Spaniards which lasted for more than 400 years.
It was not until the conclusion of the Spanish-American War that Spanish rule left the island nation in 1898, even though most other Latin American countries had gained their freedom from Spain by 1825. Cuba officially became independent on May 20, 1902.
Cosmo Cirillo, a legislative aide for Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, D-West New York, came with a proclamation from the legislator observing Cuban Independence.
Rafael Triana and Orestes Minguez, both of West New York, received proclamations at the event, as did Israel Romero of Union City and Pascual Vallin of North Bergen.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.