Bethlehem celebrates its local Borinqueneers, Puerto Rican veterans

Written by on April 14, 2021

Bethlehem celebrates its local Borinqueneers, Puerto Rican veterans

By Genesis Ortega

April 14, 2021

Photo | Genesis Ortega / WLVR

A celebration for a special regiment of Puerto Rican veterans who fought in both world wars and Korea, was held April 13 in Bethlehem. 

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It was an exciting moment for everyone present: community leaders, politicians, several veterans, including a Purple Heart recipient, and a crowd of proud Puerto Ricans. 

City Councilwoman Olga Negron explained the regiment’s rallying cry, “¡Borinqueneers! ¡Venga lo que venga! Whatever it takes, that’s what that means,” as being a way for the soldiers to express their determination and dedication in battle.

Photo | Genesis Ortega / WLVR

The local celebration included a groundbreaking for a culturally appropriate monument to honor Bethlehem’s Puerto Rican veterans, a dominoes table, to be located on the Greenway on Bethlehem’s southside.

It will honor the Borinqueneers, the U.S. Army’s 65th Infantry Regiment, which consisted mostly of soldiers from Puerto Rico. The nickname refers to the island’s pre-colonial name Borinquen.

Congress passed legislation earlier this year to commemorate April 13 as National Borinqueneers Day. 

WLVR’s Genesis Ortega interviewing Santiago Pagan. Photo | Jen Rehill / WLVR

Negron came up with the idea for the commemoration. 

“They are as much part of American history and glory as all of those veterans that fought, bled and died in all of the wars the nation has fought,” Negron says. 

Santiago Pagan, a Borinqueneer who lives in Bethlehem, received a Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama in 2016 but said being recognized by the city in this way is the biggest honor he’s received in his life. 

“I’m here in this town since 1951. I worked at Bethlehem Steel for almost 38 and a half years,” Pagan says. 

The monument is expected to be finished by mid-September. 

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