Story by Lourice Angie
The weather was warm and picture perfect on Sun., Sept. 24 as hundreds gathered on Railroad Ave. in the Village of Warwick to welcome the sixth annual Hispanic Heritage Parade and Celebration hosted by Pastor Rolfi Elvio, the spiritual leader of the Hispanic Ministry at the Warwick Reformed Church and sponsored by Bayaney Sounds, the Community Action Network (CAN) and Warwick Immigrant Neighbors (WIN).
The celebration of peace, culture and diversity is held during Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated nationally from Fri., Sept. 15 to Sun., Oct 15. Hispanic Heritage Month showcases the history, culture and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and Spain.
Participants assembled at the Warwick Reformed Church, located at 16 Maple Ave. in Warwick, at 4 p.m. They marched down Main St. in a parade that featured the vibrant, colorful costumes and masks worn by the Chinelos (a traditional Mexican costumed dancer). The parade concluded at Railroad Green where tents were set up offering delicious samples of foods from a variety of Hispanic cultures including Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico.
There was no charge for the food but donations were greatly accepted. Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, members of the Warwick Town Board and local officials marched in the parade, along with embassy officials from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard called upon the Kid Mayor Danny Alquezada Madero to assist him in presenting medals to Hispanic members of the community. Those who received medals were Oscar Figueroa, Venancio Benitez, Arturo Vasquez, Matias Rodriguez, and Pastor Rofli Elvio for their outstanding work in fostering friendship and understanding among the Hispanic and the non-Hispanic population in Warwick.
“This year is the Village of Warwick’s 150th anniversary, with letters for the future that will be placed in a time capsule to be buried this year and reopened in 2067,” said Mayor Newhard, who then read a letter he wrote to the Hispanic community that he will put in the time capsule. The letter has been published in his column in this week’s Warwick Valley Dispatch.
Also at the event, Pastor Elvio dedicated the event to peace. He said a prayer for all the people who have been affected by hurricane Irene and hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean and also those devastated by the earthquake that rocked Mexico last week.
Elvio prayed, “Like a moment of peace in understanding, Like a moment of stillness within a storm, like a place of quiet within the crowd, help me to know peace within my heart, Amen.”
The fun, music and dancing was somewhat diminished by the awareness of the damage and loss of life caused by recent natural disasters. Oscar Figueroa, a member of the Warwick community and the Warwick Reformed Church, spoke to the crowd and led a moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake in Mexico and for the people suffering in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
He also mentioned Texas and those who are still recovering from hurricane Harvey. Figueroa also encouraged and accepted donations to the Warwick Reformed Church which will be sending six volunteers to Mexico to help with the earthquake recovery.
“The church,” said Figueroa, “is organizing a group due to the distrust of the Mexican government. They are not distributing the proper help.”
Warwick attorney Jennifer Echevarria translated the message into English for the crowd.
Arlett Montes, a Mexican diplomat with Consulados sobre Ruedas, the Consulate on Wheels, hoped to send a message to all people who are non-Hispanic and would like to show support for Latino communities saying, “Stay informed and stay involved.” She led a “Viva Mexico” chant that could be heard across the green.
Emy Rodriguez and her daughter, who also participated in the parade, said they had not heard from family in Puerto Rico since hurricane Maria. Rodriguez called for members of the public to please educate themselves and reach beyond what is shown on American television and media to see and understand the full extent of devastation.
For more information or to make a donation to the Warwick Reformed Church call 986-4517.