New Britain’s ‘Borinqueneers’ Memorial Park On Track


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Robert Held

On the heels of the success of the national grassroots effort to award the ‘Borinqueneers” the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, organizers of a memorial  park to honor the last segregated military unit in U.S. history say they are more energized than ever.
Isias Diaz, a Board member of the 65th Regiment National Historic Society and its spokesperson, says he and the others have high hopes for what the memorial park can stand for in New Britain.
“This park and memorial, I hope, will one day be compared to the Iwo Jima memorial located right near here in Connecticut. I want it to be iconic, where everyone knows what it means and what it symbolizes,” said Diaz.
The park, described as the first in the nation, has drawn support from a number of community leaders, who include, Rep. Bobby Sanchez,  New Britain City Councilman Willy Pabon,  LPRAC Ex. Director Werner Oyanadel, New Britain School Board President Sharon Saavedra, as well as  Dan Garcia who initiated the idea for the park, Angel Fernandez, Tobias Freeman, Erik Valentin,   Lynette Correa,  Manny Sanchez, Carmelo Rodriguez, Carlos Piña, Maria Garcia, Richard Reyes and Diaz
Ultimately, the National Historical Society is hoping to raise approximately $500,000 for the memorial park.  “We need to raise around half a million dollars, but this project is in such early development it could be more or it could be less,” said Diaz.
The park will be built on a lot near Farmington Avenue in New Britain, at the intersection of Beaver and Washington Streets.  After observing the first Veteran’s Day ceremony there in 2013, the project originally faced some early problems.  Then Mayor Timothy O’Brien, had promised the land to the organization, although the city did not own it.  The city’s new administration has now been able to acquire the land and give it to the National Historical Society at no cost.
Isias says, the memorial park will honor all who were members of the 65th Infantry Regiment, “We want to make a monument to show the sacrifice of the gentlemen and women who served in the 65th,” said Diaz.
Diaz decided to get involved with the organization because two of his uncles were Borinqueeners. One was held as a prisoner of war during World War II.
He wants those who go to the park to acknowledge it as an important symbol for those who served and those of Hispanic origin.
“It is important that this memorial is being built because the 65th Regiment had Puerto Ricans in it and we feel that they help represent freedom in the United States,” said Diaz.
About 30 percent of New Britain’s 73,000 residents are Latino, and the state has over 500,000 Hispanic residents,  Diaz  however wants to encourage anyone interested in helping with the project to support it.
“We welcome support from the community, you don’t have to be Puerto Rican or of Hispanic descent.  If you are a veteran or just want to help we welcome any support to help us raise funds,” said Diaz.
The Borinqueneers also known as the 65th Infantry Regiment, were an entirely Hispanic infantry regiment, that was established as a military unit in 1899.  Members of the infantry regiment served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, and faced discrimination within the military it served. It was disbanded in 1959.
This past May, a ground breaking took place with children planting flowers at the memorial park site, said Diaz. The event was attended by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), as well as some of the living members of the Borinqueneers in Connecticut, along with several other military veterans in attendance that day.
The organization will hold its first fundraiser on July 26. The event will be a pig roast held at the Frosty Mug in New Britain. Tickets are $20 each.
For more information on the 65th Regiment Historical Society: