A Memorable Veterans Day Tribute To The Borinqueneers



A wreath is placed for the first Veteran’s Day ceremony at the future site of the Borinqueneers Memorial Park and Monument.
Hector Rivera stills remembers as a young solider, when he and others serving in the segregated 65th Infantry based in Puerto Rico felt  the U.S. military didn’t think they were important. The 80 year old Hartford resident now says, “It was negative, but we kept fighting in the war, we were proud.”
Rivera and four other Connecticut residents who fought in WWII and the Korean War, were among the more than 100 dignitaries,  veterans and their families who attended the first Veterans Day ceremony at the future site of the Borinqueneers Memorial Park and Monument – which organizers say is the first of its kind.
Borinqueneers Hector Rivera (left) and Dolores Nieves (R) with New Britain Alderman Manny Sanchez (center) pose proudly at the site after the ceremony.
Those who served in the 65th Infantry – which saw active duty in WWI, WWII and Korea before it was disbanded – faced discrimination on many levels. They could not use all military facilities, they were told not to speak Spanish and although fighting for the U.S., the soldiers, as residents of Puerto Rico could not vote in U.S. elections.
In spite of the discrimination they persevered, fighting in some of the fiercest battles in all three wars.  To demonstrate their pride, they nicknamed themselves the  “Borinqueneers”, based on the  name – Borinquen – given to the island by its  original inhabitants, the Taino Indians.
In recent years, the 65th has increasingly received more recognition for its service.  Organizers of Monday’s event and the Borinqueneers Memorial Park say it will be the first of its kind in the U.S. they say they have already received wide spread support and encouragement from around the country and plan to announce more details on the site  in the near future.
Nationally, a bi-partisan coalition of volunteers has been working to have the Borinqueneers awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor as a unit, similar to the recognition given to the Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers.
Over the years a number of tributes, monuments and memorials have been created to honor the Borinqueneers – among them:

  • The formation of the 65th Infantry Veterans Association.
  • A plague on the entrance to “El Morro” in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • A plague in Arlington National Cemetery.
  • A monument in Boston in memory of the 65th who died. 

New Britain Alderman Willie Pabon (R) donated the sign and installed it.
In New Britain,organizers hope to create a site that will not only serve as a tribute to the Borinqueneers, but also as a focal point for teaching young Puerto Rican children about a part of their history,  as well as serving as an educational tool for all.
More photos from the event:

“Borinqueneers” – Luis Rodriquez, Farmington, Joe Picard, Hartford and Celestino Rodriquez, New Haven attend the inaugural Veterans Day event.
Numerous dignataries attended the event – including New Britain Mayor-elect Erin Stewart, State Senator Terry Gerrantana, and State Representatives Angel Arce and Edwin Vargas
Alex Perez, a CT State Trooper, veteran, and co-founder of the Borinqueneers Motorcycle Club, which has six chapters along the Eastern seaboard traveled to New Britain with a group to attend the first ever event.
New Britain School Board President, Sharon Beloin-Saavedra,(Center) with Alderman Shirley Black(left) and newly elected Board of education member Daisy Fuentes (R) at the tribute.
New Britain Alderman Manny Sanchez and Carmelo Rodriquez helped organize the tribute.
This young girl was among the more than 100 who attended the Veterans Day first ever tribute at the site.