Did you know we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month Septembe 15 through October 15th? It is imperative that we attempt to represent all of the beautiful, eclectic people that make up our Latinx/Hispanic Community here in the United States. One of the greatest parts of our culture, and shared experience, is the immense pride we share in being Americans. Our immigrant experience, regardless of generation, shapes our attitudes about our American experience. A group I would like to highlight is the Borinqueneers – named after the native (Taíno) name for Puerto Rico (Borinquen.) They share a very special place in my heart and my Latinidad. As a Veteran of Afghanistan, I had the privilege to serve under the lineage of the 65th Infantry Regiment colors. Colors for a Service Member ignite feelings of pride and community.
The 65th Infantry Regiment was an all Puerto Rican, military outfit established in 1920 – three years after all Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens via the Jones-Shafroth Act. During World War II, the role of the Borinqueneers was just as paramount as the Tuskegee Airmen and Navajo Code Talkers – yet the Borinqueneers were kept out of major combat roles in Europe and were referred to as the “Rum and Coke” outfit. Even after the crucible of World War II, the Borinqueneers had to defend the island of Vieques against the 82nd Airborne Division to earn the regiment a spot in the Korean War. By the end of the Korean War, not only had they prevailed against the derisive monikers and degradation, the 65th Infantry Regiment had become one of the most decorated military organizations in the Korean War. They allowed the 1st Marine Division to escape via retreat from the Chosin Reservoir – one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Corps history. In 2014, the 65th Infantry Regiment was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal; which, seeks to honor those, individually or as a group, "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement.” The 65th Infantry Regiment was the only military unit to receive this honor from the Korean War.
The Borinqueneers show the grit, and resolve, of American Resilience. Today, Puertorriqueños are still proving that being an American is inherently heterogeneous. The beauty of this country is that it takes so many different people, from every walk-of-life, to make the American Dream a reality. Even when granted de jure citizenship, “the others” have to fight for their seat at the table. Those that came before us need that their stories not be lost to history. That these experiences are tangible and these sacrifices are real – that they were not that long ago, as well. During Hispanic Heritage Month, we should be thankful that these brave men fought for the equality and freedoms we have today.
· The Borinqueneers: The Forgotten Heroes of a Forgotten War; Hunter College (CUNY) – Center for Puerto Rican Studies
· Congress Honors Puerto Rican Regiment for Heroic Korean War Service; U.S. Department of Defense