Since its founding, the city of Newark has been a melting pot of cultures, including a large population from the island nation of Puerto Rico.
Settling largely in the North Ward when they first arrived here generations ago, Puerto Ricans have since become a presence in every one of the city’s neighborhoods and have made a mark in just about every aspect of city life.
That tradition was celebrated Wednesday, when city and Essex County officials gathered at the corner of Broadway and Bloomfield Avenue to christen Broadway “Avenida Puerto Rico.”
“This is more than a symbolic gesture. It’s a symbol of how the city has benefitted from the Puerto Rican and now the Latin American community,” said Newark Municipal Councilman Anibal Ramos, whose father moved to Newark from the island in the 1960s.
During a brief speech, Ramos honored some of the city's most prominent Puerto Ricans, including Luis Quintana, the first Puerto Rican elected to the Newark Municipal Council, Luis Lopez, founder of the Roberto Clemente Little League, and Capt. Ivan Roman of the Newark Police Department, the youngest captain on the force.
The informal renaming of the county road is part of Puerto Rico week in the city of Newark, which culminates with the 51st annual Puerto Rican Day parade Sunday, Sept. 16. The parade, hosted by the Puerto Rican Heritage Statewide Parade of New Jersey, is the largest event of its kind in the state, said Jacqueilne Quiles, the group’s president.
Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said that when Quiles met with Fontoura and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo to discuss this year’s parade, she also suggested naming Broadway to honor the community that has had such a deep impact in that area of the city.
“Jackie made a request that we rename the street, and Joe [DiVincenzo] said ‘sure,’ and that was it, it was done,” Fontoura said.
State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark) said the new street name would be a fitting homage to her fellow Puerto Ricans, and would stand as a permanent symbol of the community’s importance in the life of Newark.
“After the parade is done and the music is turned down, for the next 365 days we can say ‘meet me at the corner of Avenida Puerto Rico,” Ruiz said.
This year’s Puerto Rican Day parade kicks off at noon Sept. 16 at Lincoln Park, proceeds down Broad Street and ends at Military Park. Afterwards there will be a free concert at Military Park by Gilberto Santa Rosa and other musical attractions. The parade this year will be held in honor of the town of Barceloneta.