ON SUNDAY, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was swamped with Puerto Rican flags for the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Many Puerto Ricans from Philadelphia and beyond will attend or watch the parade on television and celebrate their cultural pride. However, the parade is much more than a gala and representation of cultural talents; the parade is also a symbol of the many contributions Puerto Ricans have made to the City of Brotherly love.
Puerto Ricans have been residents of Philadelphia since the latter part of the 19th century and while their numbers were initially small their contributions to the economy, labor, politics, religion and culture of the city have been substantial. In the early 20th century, when Philadelphia was one of the major cigar-manufacturing centers of the U.S., Puerto Rican cigar-makers like Saturnino Dones and Antonio Malpica, along with dozens of other Latinos, practiced their skill and craft in large factories, such as Bayuk Bros. During World War I, they were joined by other Puerto Ricans who came to work for the defense industries, such as the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Puerto Ricans were also part of the Latino group that persuaded the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to establish a Spanish-speaking church in the city and led to the establishment of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, La Milagrosa, located in Spring Garden, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. Puerto Ricans were also instrumental in forming the first Spanish-speaking Protestant church in the city - the First Spanish Baptist Church, still in existence today.