Chillin' Wit': Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez at the Puerto Rican Day Parade

Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez stands with her mother, Bienvenida Neris, during Philly's Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez stands with her mother, Bienvenida Neris, during Philly's Puerto Rican Day Parade. (BARBARA LAKER / DAILY NEWS STAFF)
Posted: October 02, 2012

Chillin' Wit' is a regular feature of the Daily News that spotlights a name in the news away from the job.

MARIA Quiñones-Sanchez never truly chills.

Even if she's at her Norris Square home on a Sunday afternoon cooking her family favorites - pig roast, rice and beans, chicken stew or octopus salad - she makes sure her lip gloss and eyeliner are in place.

"I never know who's going to stop by," the city's first Hispanic councilwoman explains.

Same goes for runs to the grocery store, where people often spot her and say they have one question; five questions later, her ice cream is soup. She tossed her sweats years ago, without regret.

"There's a sense of Puerto Rican pride, and people want me to look a certain way," she says. "They have pride in their heritage and they're proud they migrated here. I respect that, because I lived their story."

So it's no surprise that on Sunday, Sanchez, 44, is a dignitary in the city's 50th-anniversary Puerto Rican Day Parade.

After she strides up Benjamin Franklin Parkway, with floats, dancers and musicians before and after her, the Phillie Phanatic twirls her around.

In black heels, black pants, a pink, yellow and black print top, a gold necklace and earrings and coral-red nail polish, Sanchez is not alone for a second.

Women want photos with her. Others bound up to hug her.

She makes her way over to her mom, Bienvenida (Spanish for "welcome") Neris, 66. "She always believed in me," Sanchez says, putting her arm around her pint-sized mother in a red suit.

Sanchez, a married mom of two sons, ages 24 and 14, comes from humble roots. At 6 months old, she emigrated with her family to Philly, where they lived in public housing in Spring Garden.

Her dad, with a third-grade education, was a migrant worker. Her mom, one of 18 siblings, dropped out of sixth grade to help care for the others. In Philly, she was a garment worker before toiling 30 years as a Temple University housekeeper on the night shift.

Soaking in the parade, Sanchez's son, Thomas, a Central High School freshman, grins impishly when he admits he doesn't tell his friends who is mom is.

"I don't want to live in her shadow," he says.

- Barbara Laker


Chillin' Wit' is a regular feature of the Daily News that spotlights a name in the news away from the job. Contact Barbara Laker at lakerb@phillynews.com or 215-854-5933. Follow her on Twitter: @barbaralaker.

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