The Wound and the Insult

By: Daniel Nardini

Many Puerto Ricans live in what is known as Buenaventura Lakes—a town in Osceola County in central Florida. This is not unusual—that part of Florida reminds Puerto Ricans of Puerto Rico. Also, many former members of the former U.S. 65 Infantry Regiment live in Buenaventura Lakes. Because of this, Osceola County Commissioner John Quinones was instrumental in having a park there named the 65th Infantry Regiment Park after the famous Puerto Rican regiment. However, a group of local people decided that Quinones had abused his office and decided on a recall referendum.

But this fight did not end with an attempt with a mere recall of one public official. One of the residents of Buenaventura Lakes, Kathy Sperling, who had organized the recall vote, also tried to get the park renamed. Why? Because she said that the park had been inappropriately named and that the 65th Regiment were “traitors.” To put it mildly that opened up an old wound and caused an uproar among Puerto Rican residents. What Sperling was referring to was the attempted court-martial of 94 members of the famed Puerto Rican regiment for “disobeying orders.” The U.S. military, however, almost immediately reversed the court-martial after it was learned that the Puerto Rican soldiers had been badly mistreated by their American commanders.

The famous U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment had fought valiantly in the Second World War and in Korea. The regiment had been formed in 1899 bu the U.S. Army and was composed of Puerto Ricans. Ever since then the regiment has been held sacred by all Puerto Ricans—especially by their families—many of whom live in Puerto Rico and in the United States. All Puerto Ricans, whether they are for Puerto Rican statehood, independence, the present commonwealth, or even Democrat, Republican or politically independent, revere the 65th Infantry Regiment. And so for someone to call them “traitors” is fighting words indeed. It is an insult and reopening an old wound of prejudice against Puerto Ricans and against Latinos in general. The biggest insult though would be trying to rename the park.

Many Puerto Rican residents in Osceola County are now working to encourage other Puerto Rican residents to fight against renaming the park and taking on those who would disparage the good name of this legendary regiment. Even though Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States for well over 100 years, even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, even though Puerto Ricans have been settling in the United States for decades, and even though Puerto Ricans have helped to contribute to this country as well as defend bravely, there is still prejudice and hatred against Puerto Ricans.

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