Register of the Records of the
PUERTO RICAN WEEK FESTIVAL
Gail E. Farr
Processing and cataloguing of this collection were supported in part by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Philadelphia's annual Puerto Rican Week Festival (Festival Puertorriqueño Fildelfia), was held for the first time in 1964. Sponsored by the city's Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, a not-for-profit private organization, the festival has since grown to include a full week of activities and has been described by one of its officers has "the single most important event for Hispanics living in the Philadelphia region." The principle activities are the celebration of Puerto Rican Day (the last Sunday of September), a grand parade (Desfile Puertorriqueño), a banquet, and the Miss Puerto Rico-Philadelphia pageant. The festival also includes a Mini-Olympics; cultural offerings such as Latin musical and dance performances; public service awards; and speeches focusing on the goals and needs of Philadelphia's Latinos.
The festival is planned and organized by a committee within the Council of Spanish Organizations which works together with a president for the event who is chosen annually from the Puerto Rican community leadership. Names of past Puerto Rican Week Festival presidents have included Moises Gonzalez (1964), Ramonita Rivera (1978), George Perez (1980), Candelario Lamboy (1983), Mercedez Sanchez (1984), and Honorable Nelson A. Diaz (1988). Among its other duties, the committee has been responsible for handling the financial aspects of the festival such as fundraising through sales of advertising and solicitation of corporate contributions. Traditionally, the officers have also devoted considerable effort to involving elected officials either as speakers or supporters: festivities have generally included proclamations by the mayor, the governor, and the president of the United States. Through the week-long celebration and related publicity, the festival generates jobs and business opportunities for Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-speaking residents of the Delaware Valley.
For further information see: Inventory of the Records of the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (Balch Institute Library, 1993).
These materials were found among records accessioned from the Spanish Speaking Merchants Association of Philadelphia in 1988.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
This collection is made up of a small lot of materials documenting the Puerto Rican Week Festival from 1979-1987. The richest segment is found in Folders 5-13 which contain the files of Gualberto Medina, Esq. From his term as president of the Puerto Rican Week Festival in 1981. These folders contain such useful documentation as the 1981 Festival committee membership list, minutes of committee meetings, agendas, financial records, and three folders of correspondence. The correspondence (dated from January-September 1981) reflects Medina's interest in the dual themes of that year's festival; in his letters, Medina, a City Councilman from the City of Camden, New Jersey, and executive director of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia, repeatedly stressed the "importance of Hispanic merchants in our communities and in the regional character of the Hispanic population in the Philadelphia area" (Medina to José Cox, Public Relations Officer at the Philadelphia Electric Company, 26 March 1981). The correspondence includes copies of fundraising letters to officers of various corporate sponsors such as Goya Food Products, Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company, Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and Eastern Airlines, and incoming letters of support from organizations such as WPTI-TV, sponsor of the Spanish Film Festival at the festivities. There are a number of exchanges between Medina and Girard Bank officer Richard C. Torbert concerning arrangements form the 1981 "Fiesta del Barrio," the purpose of which was to commemorate Puerto Rican week in the most viable Hispanic neighborhood in Philadelphia, the "Golden Block," located in the 2700-2900 blocks of North Fifth Street; Girard Bank was a chief backer of much of the re-development that had been undertaken in the neighborhood since the mid-1970s. Some of the exchanges detail exhibits to be placed at the Fiesta, such as a health fair sponsored by Anheuser-Busch: the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation's Hispanic CPR program, Projecto Latido de Corazón, for example, staffed a booth there. Also included are letters to and from elected officials such as Philadelphia mayor William J. Green offering endorsement or help with the planning. Among these are committee chairperson Ramonita Rivera's request to Hon. Hernan Padilla, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to speak at the 1981 banquet. Finally, the 1981 correspondence includes memoranda to and from subcommittee chairs detailing such matters as the names of marching bands participating in that year's parade. Some of the exchanges between committee members are in Spanish.
Another interesting group of materials in this collection concerns the dedication of the mural, Nuestra Sangre (Our Blood), which was held during the 1979 Fiesta del Barrio. Part of the Mural and Banner Project organized by the Spanish Merchants Association and the graphic artist, Domingo Negrón, the 1979 work was produced by Taller Puertorriqueño and Gráficas 5000 in an effort, in Negrón's words, to create "bright and effective visual impact in the heart of our commercial district." (Negrón to Richard Torbert, 18 April 1979). The mural was underwritten by Girard Bank and its completion was heralded with a raffle and flyers as detailed in Folders 2-3.
Folders 14-18 contain miscellaneous items from 1976-1987.
For additional relevant materials: Series 13 of the records of the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations is made up of materials on the Puerto Rican Week Festival (6 linear feet, 1975-1988). See the Council's records (MSS 120) and the companion guide, Balch Institute. Printed parade programs are catalogued in the Balch Special Print Collection #327.
For additional materials concerning Gualberto Medina's efforts to promote Latino entrepreneurship, see the records of the Spanish Merchants Association of Philadelphia (MSS 114) and companion guide, Balch Institute. Further information is found in the records of the Fifth Street Merchants Association (MSS 188), Balch Institute.
The box list of the register of the records of the Puerto Rican Week Festival
is four pages long.