Every year, Cicero hosts a ceremony to honor Puerto Rican heritage and celebrate the Caribbean island that is home to more than 3.3 million Americans. This year’s celebration, held on June 13 at the Cicero Community Center, had a more somber tone than usual, as Cicero’s Puerto Rican population turned to prayer and remembrance for those who have suffered and are still suffering from Hurricane Maria, which struck the commonwealth in late September 2017.
Emceed by Cicero Chaplain Ismael Vargas, the ceremony focused on the pride Puerto Ricans still have for their home despite the struggles many are suffering there.
“We are always Puerto Ricans, no matter what happens,” Vargas said. “We must remain proud of where we came from and positive about where we are heading.”
Vargas flew to the island territory last fall to assist in the recovery efforts, helping to clear debris and clean up damaged roads. He returned from his trip and helped orchestrate a fundraiser to provide financial support and non-perishable goods for those still suffering from the after effects of the hurricane. At the start of June, more than 10,000 Puerto Ricans are still without power, something officials said could take up to two more months to resolve.
“Our hearts and prayers continue to go out to those who are trying to live, day by day, in this situation. We pray that they are kept safe from harm as we begin hurricane season,” Town President Larry Dominick said.
Pastor Edwin Melendez of New Harvest Church provided the invocation and the American Legion Post 96 presented the American and Puerto Rican flags for the ceremony. Maria Lopez sang the national anthem and the Rev. Jose E. Muñiz spoke at the event.