By Victor O'Brien
Killeen Daily Herald
The president of the Puerto Rican Senate celebrated Puerto Rican Americans at a gala event in Killeen Saturday night.
The League of United Latin American Citizens and La Casa del Puerto Rico honored the Puerto Rican Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, the Borinqueneers and Killeen area Puerto Ricans at the Killeen Plaza Hotel's ball room Saturday.
"Having the senator from Puerto Rico here in Killeen is a victory for every Puerto Rican," Councilman Juan Rivera said.
Mayor Timothy Hancock echoed Rivera's thoughts.
"It's great that our city is so diverse and this is the beginning for the Puerto Ricans that want to be a part of Killeen, this will help them be a part," Hancock said.
Gladys Casteleiro, founder of La Casa del Puerto Rico, visited Puerto Rico to personally invite McClintock and also organized the event as a way to bring Puerto Ricans in Killeen and Texas communities into the open.
"I realize that there is a beautiful Puerto Rican community in Killeen, but they are just there," Casteleiro said. "The Killeen community is making changes and we (Puerto Ricans) want to be a part of those changes. We want to merge with the progress of Killeen," Casteleiro said.
Being in Killeen was important for McClintock because of the United States' Puerto Rican population.
He said that of the 8 million Puerto Ricans worldwide, 4.1 million of those are in the United States and the Killeen area Puerto Ricans are a special part of the ones in America.
"In that sense, Killeen has become a very important community where a significant concentration of American citizens from Puerto Rico are," McClintock said.
"It's the only Texas city that has elected a Puerto Rican as its mayor and has Puerto Ricans on the City Council."
McClintock has a strong personal relationship with Texas. He said, "I'm half-Texan," because not only did his mother and father graduate from the University of Texas, but his father was born in Texas City.
Former Killeen Mayor Raul Villaronga, chairman of LULAC's Killeen foundation, helped organize the event to honor the Borinqueneers, the 65th Infantry Regiment of the United States Army composed almost entirely of Puerto Ricans that fought in the Korean War.
A Texas contingent of 22 members or family members of surviving Borinqueneers were in attendance.
"They are a very special part of the history of Puerto Rico," Villaronga said.
Angel Rosario, a 48-year resident of Killeen, fought as part of the Borinqueneers in the Korean War.
Rosario said the night was special because honoring him and his fellow Borinqueneers helps preserve Puerto Rican history for the younger generations.
He said joining the group was special to him as a Puerto Rican. He even lied by saying he was 18 instead of his actual age of 17 just so he could enlist.
Contact Victor O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254)501-7468