In honor of the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as “The Borinqueneers,” who fought in the Korean War, the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem and the city of Bethlehem created a memorial in the form of a domino table.
The memorial was presented at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 15 to mark the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic Heritage Month was celebrated between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15.
Stephanie Augello, executive assistant to Mayor Bob Donchez, said the ceremony was a moving one. A member of the 65th Infantry was present who played the first game of dominoes.
The regiment was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by President Barack Obama on April 13, 2016. April 13 is now National Borinqueneers Day, an official day to mark the sacrifices made and adversities overcome by Hispanic members of the armed forces.
Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron was one of the members of the Congressional Gold Medal Alliance who lobbied for six years to get a Congressional Gold Medal for the 65th Infantry.
She said once the group received national recognition and monuments started being created around the country, she worked to have one put up in Bethlehem.
As the project leader, Negron said she reached out to the South Side Initiative, which was in conversation with the CADCB about creating a gathering space in the community.
She said she thought a domino table would be a great way to do this while also honoring Puerto Rican culture.
“I said ‘I think it should be a domino table because dominoes are what we do,’” Negron said. “Latinos, especially Puerto Ricans, gather to play dominoes for generations. I thought if we do a domino table, it will give people a reason to gather, to play together, to talk about the 65th Infantry and the service of our people in the U.S. Armed Forces.”
Negron said she reached out to Mayor Donchez about the project and he responded with excitement at the idea.
She said the city provided the grant money that was used for phase one of the project, to build the foundation for the memorial, as well as buy and set up the table.
Negron said she and her team are working on phase two, the creation of art containing information on The Borinqueneers to accompany the table.
She said this phase will be funded through a grant provided by CADCB.
“A lot of people walk the Greenway every day,” Augello said. “By seeing the monument and the information posted, it would help residents understand their bravery and the value of the sacrifices that this infantry made and hopefully, because of that, it’ll never be forgotten and inspire future generations.”
Negron said she chose the location for the table—along the Greenway between Webster and Taylor Streets—because she had located a veteran from the 65th Infantry living in a building nearby, as well as other individuals who had served in the Armed Forces.
Director of CADCB Yari Colon-Lopez, one of the individuals involved in the initial stages of the project, said the memorial is a beautiful reminder of the diversity in the community, located in the heart of the South Side where the Latino community is.
“It’s a celebration of culture,” Colon-Lopez said. “The South Side has always been a hub of culture, of language, we see it through the art, through the food… This is now just a monument of that—that we celebrate diversity, we celebrate culture, we celebrate language and all the riches that come with that we share with one another.”
Negron said Latinos take a lot of pride in their service and she was happy to honor them with a memorial they are so deserving of.
She said it makes her proud to see the table already being used by community members to congregate.
“If you build it they will come,” Negron said. “That’s what it is. If you have that in there, people will gather, people will come and it’s happening already.”