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By: Chris Sykes - Staff Writer
IRVINGTON — On Monday, Sept. 17, the township performed a flag-raising ceremony in honor of Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month, in conjunction with Board of Education member Norma Cartay and the Latinos for Better Communities organization.
Mayor Wayne Smith and the members of the Municipal Council supported the event and he presided at the flag-raising ceremony which took place in front of the Municipal Building in Civic Square. But this year, for the first time, Cartay had some other help organizing the annual event, too.
That help came in the form of Alberto Alvarez and his brother, Marco Alvarez, from St. Leo’s Church. Alberto runs the Men’s Ministry at the church, so he said events such as the ninth annual Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month flag-raising and celebration are right up his alley.
“We’re happy to be involved in our community because Latinos are a big part of the community in this town,” Alberto said. “America opened its arms to welcome us and we’re proud to be Americans and we’re all brothers and sisters in Irvington, even though we come from different races, countries and cultures; we’re family. But we’re all Americans and we’re happy to be in America and that’s why we helped with the flag-raising ceremony and the reception in town hall afterward, so that everybody could come together on Monday to enjoy free food, drink and free everything.”
Alberto said the flag-raising was all about celebrating Latino culture and history, even though they are building their futures here in America. He said you should never forget the past and your homeland because that is a part of your heritage, but it is up to all of us to carry that forward into the future.
And that’s why, Marco said, they decided to help Cartay by becoming a part of the annual Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. The theme of this year’s event was “Uniting Latinos in America” and he said this was an accurate summation of their common links and cause.
“We’re from Ecuador and we’ve been here for 18 years and we’ve come together with Norma Cartay to host this even for the entire Irvington community, regardless of whether you are Latino or not,” Marco said. “Being Latino is all about language and that language is Spanish. We all speak it and that gives us something in common, even though we Latinos all come from different countries.”
Cartay said she and the Alvarez brothers are really trying to put the “unity” in “community.” She said the credit for expanding their shared organization and getting them to work together with her should go to Rosa Cordoba, who is also very active in St. Leo’s Church.
“For the past nine years, Latinos have been proud to share our culture with the non-Spanish speaking community so that they would know the richness that makes us Latino,” Cartay said. “We come from 21 different countries, with a little bit of different flavors, but altogether we make the best soup. Depending on your geographic location, we have all of it – the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico that are all part of the Caribbean culture and, when you go further to Ecuador, Costa Rica and El Salvador, it changes more into the native Indian.
“But when we all come together, we seem to all speak the same language, eat the same foods and, even though we have some differences with names because of differences in the dialects within the culture, if you speak to someone in plain Spanish, they will understand you.”