By Efrain Nieves
Today, as Puerto Rican flags are waved along Fifth Avenue in New York City, one thing must be noted: it was in this very city that the first Puerto Rican flag, not to be confused with the Lares flag, was first conceived and sewn. The year was 1892, according to some historical archives, when the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Committee first adopted it.
According to some accounts on June 12, 1892, Antonio Vélez Alvarado was at his apartment at 219 Twenty-Third Street in Manhattan when he stared at a Cuban flag for a few minutes, and then took a look at the blank wall in which it was being displayed. Vélez suddenly perceived an optical illusion, in which he perceived the image of the Cuban flag with the colors in the flag’s triangle and stripes inverted. Almost immediately he visited a nearby merchant, Domingo Peraza, from whom he bought some crepe paper to build a crude prototype. He later displayed his prototype in a dinner meeting at his neighbor’s house, where the owner, Micaela Dalmau vda. de Carreras, had invited José Martí as a guest.
Martí was pleasantly impressed by the prototype, and made note of it in a newspaper article published in the Cuban revolutionary newspaper Patria, published on July 2 of that year. Acceptance of the prototype was slow in coming, but grew with time.
Francisco Gonzalo Marín, who decided to have a proper flag sewn based on the prototype, presented the new flag’s design in New York’s “Chimney Corner Hall” a gathering place of independence advocates two years later.
The Puerto Rican Flag (with the light blue triangle) soon came to symbolize the ideals of the Puerto Rican independence movement. (Antonio Vélez Alvarado, amigo y colaborador consecuente de Martí y Betances, Dávila, Ovidio; pp. 11-13).
However many conflicting accounts there may be about who the first proponent of the design of the Puerto Rican flag was, the one constant is that New York City was its birthplace and that it was officially proclaimed the flag of the Commonwealth in 1952.
As such, it’s befitting that we celebrate the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City to national acclaim. It’s the right place to do so.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to Tato Torres for the information. Pa’lante Hermano!
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