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Hartford History Center Exhibits: Hartford Puerto Rican Parades

Online exhibits on Hartford history curated by the Hartford History Center team

Introduction

Puerto Rican Pride in Hartford: parade, pageant, and flag

Orgullo Boricua en Hartford: desfile, pompa, y bandera

1967 - 1996

Exhibit curated by Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library / Originally displayed 2015

Footage of the 1969 Puerto Rican parade of the patron saint of Comerio, San Cristo de Salud (Saint of Good Health) was gifted to the Hartford History Center by the late Charles “Butch” Lewis, co-founder of Hartford’s Black Panther Party and longtime North End resident. This footage enabled us to look more into the history and significance of Puerto Rican parades in Hartford. We selected images highlighting the young women of the Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut pageant as well as political and community leaders who supported the parade. These images, spanning 1967 - 1996, were gathered from the Hartford Times collection and Tony Debonee photograph collections. News articles provided context for the 1964 roots of the Hartford parade and a better understanding of the political, cultural, and religious significance of Hartford’s Puerto Rican parades and pageants. Research published by Nelson A. Denis gives us additional context. Please join us in celebrating Hartford’s display of Puerto Rican pride.

Photo / Video Gallery

Spanish American Association’s La Reina Infantil de Hartford
(The child queen of Hartford) and her royal court.
The Little Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut category still persists today.
Hartford Times photograph by Ronnie Dundin, 1967.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Royal court float from town unknown
Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, circa late 1960s

Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Willimantic group marches in the parade
Ten additional Connecticut towns were represented in the September 28, 1969 parade.

Hartford Times photograph by David Ploss, published September 29, 1969.

Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Royal court float from Enfield
Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, circa late 1960s.

Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Comerienos Ausentes (people absent from Comerio)
Festival of the patron saint of the Puerto Rican town of Comerio, San Cristo de Salud (Saint of Good Health), Hartford, August 3, 1969.  Butch Lewis Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

In 1968, Comerienos Ausentes, a Hartford organization made up of Puerto Ricans from the town of Comerio and founded by Ester Jimenez of West Hartford, wanted to recreate a festival that took place in Comerio in celebration of the town’s patron saint, San Cristo de La Salud (Saint of Good Health). They turned a normally nine day festival into just one day of celebration on Main Street in Hartford’s North End, culminating behind the original Barnard-Brown School and next to Sacred Heart Church. This church was particularly active during the 1950s -1970s as a sacred worship space for the Spanish-speaking Catholic community. It was located in the heart of the early Hartford Puerto Rican community and Maria Sanchez insisted that the church hire a Spanish-speaking priest. The parade and festival included Catholic Mass, processions of Puerto Rican religious and cultural groups, family games and races, boxing matches, food, and a concert with a performance by Comerio’s own folk singer, Ramito. Puerto Rican and American flags waved proudly throughout the day.

Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut Sylvia Carrasquillo, of Waterbury
stands next to Governor John Dempsey, left.

Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, 1969.

Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut Sylvia Carrasquillo, of Waterbury
waves from her parade float.

Parade took place on September 28, 1969.  
Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, published September 29, 1969.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Sylvia Carrasquillo, center, of Waterbury, is crowned Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut.
She was a freshman at Central Connecticut State University, majoring in sociology. Rosa Lydia Perez, left, of Bridgeport, and Noemi Velazquez, right, of New London.
Hartford Times photograph by Juan Fuentes, published September 16, 1969.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Reinas y Politicos (queens and politicians)
From left: Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut Sylvia Carrasquillo, of Waterbury; Noemi Velazquez, of New London; Elizabeth Velez, of New London; Maria Gonzalez, of Willimantic; Emelina Berrios, of Enfield. In the back from left: Senator Wallace Barnes, City Assembly member George Kinsella, State Legislator/civil rights leader Wilber Smith.
Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, published October 5, 1969.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Senorita Elsa Rodriguez, La Reina Del Spanish American Sports Club
(Queen of the Spanish American Sports Club)
Parade took place on September 28, 1969.
Hartford Times photograph by David Ploss, published September 29, 1969.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Miss Puerto Rico Connecticut Yolanda Molina of Enfield poses with Maria Sanchez, parade committee, and parade Grand Marshall Pedro Melendez, of New Haven.
Hartford Times photograph by Wayne Carter, published September 21, 1972.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Angelica Velazquez, La Gran Marsical de Hartford (the Grand Marshall of Hartford) stands in front of Hartford Public High School’s Proyecto MAS group.
Velazquez was the owner of La Casa Latina, a small bridal shop at 1688 Main Street, Hartford. MAS ran an alternative education program for potential dropouts in the city.

Hartford Times photograph, photographer unknown, September 24, 1972

Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Grand Marshall Pedro Melendez of New Haven walks down Main Street.
Maria Sanchez and other members of the Puerto Rican Parade committee can be seen walking behind him.
Hartford Times photograph by Juan Fuentes, September 24, 1972.
Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Flag holder and spectator on Main Street attends the 25th Anniversary of the Puerto Rican Parade
Photograph by Tony DeBonee, June 4, 1989
Tony Debonee Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

La Reina Maribel I y su corte (the Queen Maribel I and her royal court) float on Park Street.
Photograph by Tony DeBonee, June 5, 1994.
Tony Debonee Collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library

Live performers play traditional instruments on the float of the Spanish American Merchants Association in Hartford.
Photograph by Tony DeBonee, June 2, 1996
Tony Debonee collection, Hartford History Center, Hartford Public Library


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