Puerto Ricans have been part of this community from the beginning of the last century and have become a strong, powerful group of people working hard to improve themselves, their families, and what became their new home, St. Croix.
Their influence was recognized in 1964 by the local Legislature, under Governor Ralph E. Paiewonsky approving a historical change bill. Columbus Day, observed in all the Americas as the Discovery Day, was now to be Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Friendship Day. This bill called upon the citizens of the Virgin Islands to "observe the occasion with fitting ceremonies honoring Puerto Ricans residing in our midst and who have made substantial contributions to the advancement and progress of the Virgin Islands."
Over the years, they have gone from honoring just individuals to now honoring outstanding students, service organizations, persons with disabilities, those supporting youth and sports, and small business owners who help the community. Becoming more inclusive, the Committee also recognizes the contributions of native Crucians.
In 2006 the Virgin Islands/Puerto Rico Friendship Committee embarked on a project that was to become very dear to their hearts. It was the acquisition of space in the Florence Williams Public Library for a Hispanic Collection. The goal was to rescue whatever books could be salvaged from a former bilingual library and add as many other titles as possible and provide a space for our Spanish-bilingual readers at a public library.
With this in mind, the committee succeeded in acquiring the space, worked on locating, classifying and discarding (whenever necessary) the books. The Florence Williams Library in Christiansted was able to locate some funds to add more titles and some donations came from the community.
In 2007, under the leadership of Ms. Zoraida Jacobs, a dedication took place at the library. That was "la primera piedra" or the stepping stone towards the completion of the project.
The biggest hurdle was the need to catalog most of the books in order to label them correctly for shelving. It was not only a matter of receiving books and placing them on the shelves. It's a lengthy, slow and difficult process. There was no bilingual librarian or cataloguer available on island nor funds to hire one off island. To help with this, the committee, in 2009 and 2011, got involved in two "Arroz con Pollo" Festivals. All who attended can attest to the excellent opportunity to sample this delicious dish common to many of our Hispanic countries. With the proceeds, the committee was able to hire the services of a bilingual cataloguer from Puerto Rico.
Today, the doors to the Hispanic Collection Center at the Florence Williams Public Library are open to all to visit and enjoy, and to take care of for future generations.
The annual Friendship Festival has transformed from one Friendship Day into many out of fellowship and patriotic pride. This year the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Friendship Committee is celebrating 51 years of its formation.
The people of the territory of the Virgin Islands and the people of Puerto Rico have had a long happy association as relatives, neighbors, business partners, fellow Americans and warm friends. The territory has been particularly enriched by the settlement in the Virgin Islands by a large number of natives from Puerto Rico whose contributions have greatly added to the substantial progress achieved in this territory.
To commemorate this fellowship, the 2015 VI/PR Friendship Committee, nominated by the Honorable Governor Mapp, is presenting a spectacular cultural and entertainment program for the entire Community, from October 8 - 12, including a Sacred Night, Friendship Village, Queen Pageant, Reception at Government House, Road Race, Grand Parade, and Fiesta del Batey! Let's remember the good things and embrace each other in fellowship and friendship.
St. Croix This Week | St. Thomas + St. John This Week
Location: # 1 Havensight Way, St. Thomas, VI 00802
Mailing Address: PO Box 11199 St. Thomas, VI 00801-4199
Telephone: (340) 774-2500
Fax: (340) 776-1466