By Lisa S. Lenkiewicz
HARTFORD, CT — Years ago, the name Maria Colon Sanchez was synonymous with leadership in Hartford’s Puerto Rican community. She was bestowed with the honorary title “La Madrina” (The Godmother) by her community. A new generation of young Puerto Rican leaders in the Hartford area is determined to ensure her contributions are remembered and her legacy passed on.
To honor that legacy, each year the Connecticut Institute for Community Development-Puerto Rican Parade Committee (CICD) holds the Maria C. Sanchez Awards Banquet, to be held Saturday, February 7th this year, and the annual Greater Hartford Annual Puerto Rican Parade.
Aura Alvarado, past president of CICD, recalls the time when she joined the organization. She thought she was just helping coordinate a parade. “I had no idea about the history and the amazing people who gave Puerto Ricans a place in Hartford,” she says. “People such as Olga Mele, Luis Ayala, Mildred Torres and Maria Sanchez. These individuals didn’t just coordinate a parade; it was a cultural experience that also served as agents for change. Maria was instrumental in getting the community out to vote–making sure there were interpreters for those who didn’t speak English.”
“This is why the new, young, CICD board needs the support of everyone in the community, especially the Puerto Rican community. There are many past award recipients and they too need to teach the younger generation why and what that means.”
“Our goal is to pass the message down and keep passing the torch to keep the organization and the parade going,” emphasizes Gladys Rivera, CICD vice president and director of events.
Alvarado, Communications Director for CREC also adds, “Our younger Puerto Ricans don’t understand the sacrifice and pride the parade represents. It saddens me when I see our youth disrespecting the parade because no one has taken the time to teach them.”
A native of Comerio, Puerto Rico, Sanchez…
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