Puerto Rican vets launch Mass. monument campaign

By Russell Contreras
Associated Press / November 25, 2010

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BOSTON—A group of Puerto Rican veterans in Massachusetts has launched a campaign to raise money for a monument to honor Puerto Ricans who have served in the U.S. military.

Members of the group Puerto Rican Veterans Monument Square Association said they were seeking to build the monument in Boston's South End neighborhood to honor all Puerto Rican men and women who served during America's wars -- from the Spanish American War to present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They also want to use the bilingual monument as a way to battle stereotypes about Puerto Ricans who live on the mainland, members said.

"So many people don't know that Puerto Ricans have served in every war for the U.S.," said Antonio Molina, 68, who served in the Marines during Vietnam. "We fought for this country. We died for this country. We paid our dues in blood."

The group is planning to erect the monument next to a current monument for the 65th Infantry, the all-Puerto Rican infantry unit that fought in the Korean War. The South End neighborhood for years was an enclave for Puerto Ricans settling in Boston.

Molina said the group seeks to raise around $250,000 through private donations. So far, the group has received $10,000 from the Brown Fund to design the monument.

Army veteran Jaime Rodriguez, 68, who also served during Vietnam, said the group is working with volunteers on a design scheduled to be released next year.

Until then, the group is planning a series of fundraising events and forums around Puerto Ricans who served in the military.

The move is similar to successful efforts by Mexican-American veterans to erect monuments in California and Texas.

Rodriguez said he hoped his group's efforts would also spark Puerto Rican veterans in other cities to think about building monuments to honor their neighbors who served.

"We hope people in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) so the same," said Rodriguez. "But our plans here are meant to honor those Puerto Ricans from Massachusetts who put their lives on the line. They need to be remembered."