Heritage

 

Hispanic communities form one of the brilliant threads that make up the Garden State's multicultural tapestry. On special occasions throughout the year you can enjoy the parades, festivals, concerts, arts exhibits, crafts shows and commemorations of historic events as New Jersey's Latinos honor their heritage. But no one needs to wait for a scheduled celebration to discover New Jersey's Hispanic traditions. You can do it any day of the year in our Hispanic neighborhoods, where you can eat a Cuban medianoche sandwich, buy a Dominican merengue CD or read up on the latest soccer news from Uruguay. Walking the streets of these communities alone is a special experience in which you are transported by the swirl of smells, tastes and sights representing the Spanish-speaking nations of the Americas and Europe.

There are 1.1 million Hispanics in New Jersey, the United States Census found, making the community one of the state's largest. It is also one of the fastest growing-up 51/o since 1990. It is a population that was built up over three waves of immigration extending back a century.

First to arrive in New Jersey in large numbers were Puerto Ricans, who came when the United States gained control of Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War; they continued coming throughout World War II and the following decade. Next came Cuban exiles, beginning in the 1960s. They were followed in the 1980s by a third wave of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, Mexico and countries in Central and South America. Together, the newcomers and their descendants have left an indelible mark in New Jersey, a mark in which visitors of all cultures can enjoy.

A bust honoring one of Puerto Rico's greatest heroes, Luis Munoz Rivera (1859-1916), father of the first elected governor of Puerto Rico (Luis Munoz Marin) is located in Newark's Washington Park. Munoz Rivera began his career as a writer and newspaperman, spearheading Puerto Rico's autonomy from Spain. As a congressional representative in Washington, Munoz Rivera was a driving force behind the Jones Act, which extended American citizenship to all people born in Puerto Rico.

HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH starts September 15 and 16 with the commemoration of the independence of Mexico and Central America, and runs through October 12, the commemoration of Columbus' arrival in the Americas. Throughout the state, various cultural and educational institutions sponsor music festivals, exhibits and lectures on Hispanic heritage.

With sugarcane plantations devastated during Cuba's War of Independence at the end of the 19th century, the Rionda clan of wealthy landowners headed north and became one of the first Hispanic families to settle in New Jersey. Manuel Rionda founded a prosperous sugar brokerage firm on Wa11 Street; however, he chose to live in Alpine, where he built the palatial estate of Rio Vista. 1t had a huge mansion, a 100-foot-tall clock tower made of stone that offered a magnificent view of the Hudson River, and a two-acre lake with its own waterfall. The Riondas would often invite Hispanic workers from New York and Northern New Jersey to visit for "a day in the country." In the 1930s, the mansion was demolished and later the Rio Vista property was sold to developers to make way for the luxurious homes for which Alpine is famous today. The dock tower remains, however, standing at the end of a long esplanade as a reminder of the Riondas.

 

Copyright 2001- , Terry Muse 
Revised: November 6, 2001
URL: http://black_and_hispanic.tripod.com/hispanichistory/
Contact: Terry Muse