|Ward 3 Ald. Shirley Black and |
Rep. Bobby Sanchez
At Fiesta Latina
Family, friends and colleagues were on hand at the Puerto Rican Society Friday March 18th to celebrate the election of Bobby Sanchez as the state representative from the 25th Assembly District in New Britain.
Sanchez, the Democratic Town Committee Vice Chair and Board of Education member, was elected in the February 22nd special election to the state assembly seat . He succeeded John Geragosian, one of the new state Auditors of Public Accounts.
Like many a gathering at the Puerto Rican Society the “Fiesta Latina” had plenty of home-made dishes of chicken, pork, rice and beans. Sanchez, a Washington Street resident and human services professional, welcomed attendees many of whom have worked with Sanchez through the years to register voters and promote turnouts on election days. Ward 5 Ald. Roy Centeno and DTC member Francisco Cuin introduced other elected officials during a brief program , including State Rep. Tim O’Brien, Ward 3 Ald. Shirley Black and BOE President Sharon Beloin-Saavedra.
Less than a month in state office, Sanchez says he’s absorbed in reading the many bills he’ll vote on. He faces a long week of sessions on the finance, revenue and bonding committee as lawmakers work on a state budget of “shared sacrifice.” His knowledge and career work in Head Start and social service programs will serve him well on the Education Committee, his other major assignment as a freshman lawmaker.
Sanchez, a New Britain native, reminded us that he was a child of the sixties. His immigrant parents enrolled him in the city’s first Head Start classroom at Saint Mary’s Church-- the early childhood program that was part of the wave of social and civil rights laws enacted and for which people gave their lives to bring about just a generation ago.
The significance of the celebration for Sanchez was not lost on anyone in attendance. Sanchez’ election to state office is a milestone for the Latino community whose numbers, according to the 2010 census, rise rapidly in city and suburb alike in Connecticut. Pete Rosa came by to wish Sanchez well. Rosa, a former BOE member and New Britain Alderman, was New Britain’s first citizen of Puerto Rican background to run and win elective office. It was not so long ago that Rosa, for his willingness to run and hold office, endured phone threats from anonymous voices fixated on ethnic division and hate in the city.
That Sanchez has been elected a state representative is a solid sign of progress in New Britain. It says that people wanting to be part of politics and government will have opportunities regardless of ethnic background or economic standing. It says that New Britain is “a city for all people”.
Pete Hamill, the author and journalist, would agree. He once remembered looking out his “tenement window” in Brooklyn in his youth and seeing the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.
“They weren’t symbols of New York; they stood for America itself......Those symbols, made visible and concrete by the efforts of human beings, were not lies. The first said that here, in these United States, men and women were free of the ancient curses of class, iron tradition, religious division. An Irish Catholic from bigoted Belfast, a Jew from some forlorn and isolated Russian shtetl, an Italian from the eroded wastes of the Mezzogiorno: all were free. Each was the political equal of the richest man in the country, able to cast a vote in free elections, possessed of rights guaranteed on paper in the Constitution of the United States. Here, no man or woman would ever genuflect before a king. Here, no child would shiver in fear during the terrors of a pogrom. Here, no feudal don would exercise arbitrary powers of life and death. Not here. Not ever. This was America. Here you could imagine a glorious future. Here, dreams really did come true.
[From “America: The Place Where Dreams Still Come True” by Pete Hamill]