NOTED & QUOTED: Organizers target 100,000 Dominicans to gather in Washington
For those who believe in the power of numbers, July 28 will be a day of recognition and empowerment. Organizers hope that 100,000 compatriotas and like-minded individuals will convene near the Washington Monument in D.C. to celebrate Dominicans and their contributions to this country — and flex political muscle.
Maria Teresa Feliciano, president of the Dominican American National Roundtable, said it’s been a long time coming.
“It’s a mark of half a century of migration,” said Feliciano. During that time, Dominicans have grown in both numbers and stature in North American society, she said.
Dominicans in the United States are teetering near the 2 million mark, said Feliciano, during a speech last May at a forum hosted by DANR in New York. This growth is boosting political clout by Dominicans among elected officials.
That’s something Feliciano, a community activist, knows a lot about.
Feliciano is an outspoken critic leading DANR’s efforts in New York’s redistricting scramble. The goal is to implement a Hispanic-majority district in areas where a significant portion of the Dominican population has surged. DANR recently proposed that this new district should represent Washington Heights, Inwood, the west Bronx, Corona and Jackson Heights in Queens.
The district would be 66 percent Latino and it would increase the chances for a Dominican candidate to represent a Congressional district from New York. The outcome may well rest on a decision expected to be reached by a Brooklyn federal court as early as today.
The celebration in D.C., will offer a gateway for many to acknowledge the surging population growth and its political prominence among Dominicans.
“The symbolism of having that on the grounds on the Washington Monument is pretty significant because that monument represents the American philosophy of freedom and the pursuit of happiness,” said Nestor Montilla, chairman of the National Dominican American Council, communications officer and former president. “We as a community can go there and assemble there and celebrate our culture, our religion, our traditions and talk about our civic engagement in the United States.”
Although, the DANR had previously planned for a smaller crowd, such as 20,000 people, Montilla said that with a Dominican population in this country of 2 million, the numbers didn’t add up. So far, he said 1,600 persons have registered through the website and they’re expecting more members to attend from 120 local councils of the National Dominican American Council (NDAC) around the country.
DANR has invited President Barack Obama and Dominican President Leonel Fernández as well.
The festivity, which organizers hope will draw plenty of praise, will only feature Dominican ethnic food, ruling out hamburgers. Some of the restaurants they will be showcasing include “Mama Juana,” a famous restaurant located in New York City.
“They’re going to roast puerco/lechon all around the Washington Monument,” said Montilla.
Among the many recognized Dominican Americans who are being honored include literary icons Julia Alvarez and Junot Diaz. The organization will also be releasing a documentary titled, “The Dominican List,” which focuses on contributions of Dominicans in the United States that span half a century.
“As a mixed race, we come in all different colors,” said Feliciano, while explaining the essential elements of her culture.
“You identify a Dominican neighborhood because you hear merengue or bachata from the radio. You see restaurants where they serve arroz, habichuelas, sancocho…it’s a young immigrant group and because of its age…you will find Dominicans in the United States, those who were born here, still exhibiting Dominican traits in their music, food, religion and language.”