A long-awaited set of athletic fields in Union City will open in May.
Mayor Brian Stack made the announcement at the city’s Dominican Independence Day festivities on March 7.
“We just built a beautiful new baseball field, soccer field, and football field, right on Second Street and Palisade,” said Stack. “That’s going to be named in honor of a great Dominican. Juan Marichal will be coming to Union City on May 3 and we’re going to have a great celebration when we open up that field.”
Marichal was a longtime pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
The fields are part of an expansion of Washington Park on the Jersey City border.
The announcement was just one of the matters spoken about at a day dedicated to honoring the Dominican Republic’s independence from Haiti. Most of the speeches that followed were in honor of the day.
‘Today, everyone is Dominican’
“Whether you’re Irish-American or Italian, Cuban, whatever you are,” said Stack in his speech. “Today everyone is Dominican here in Union City.”
The free celebration was held at Jose Marti Freshman Academy. In attendance were members of the Union City Board of Commissioners, who honored a handful of distinguished Dominican-Americans and presented certificates of appreciation to three artists.
“I thank the Dominican community for making Union City their home,” said Stack. “Coming here, working in Union City, participating in the political process, participating in our schools, on our municipal boards. By just living here, raising your children here, raising your families here, you have enriched Union City, and made Union City better. You’ve made this country better.”
“This country, this state of New Jersey, and our city are built on immigrants.” –Brian Stack
Following Stack’s welcoming speech, Commissioner of Public Affairs Lucio Fernandez jokingly said, “Mayor, they’re waiting for the Spanish version.”
Stack responded that he only spoke “poquito Spanish. Lucio only teaches me the bad words.”
Two distinguished Dominican-Americans were honored at the event for their contributions to the community. Maribel Martinez was introduced and thanked by Commissioner Tilo Rivas.
“Maribel Martinez has made significant contributions to the betterment of youth in Union City,” said Rivas. “She has proudly served as a teacher at Jose Marti Freshman Academy with great dedication for the past eight years. Maribel Martinez represents the true spirit and character of the Dominican people.”
Also honored was Enmanuel Garcia Villavicencio, the founder, CEO, and artistic director of E3outlaws Productions Company, created in 2006 to bring the performing arts to Hispanics in New York City by recreating classical English theater in Spanish.
Commissioner Maryury Martinetti cited Villavicencio for his work as a writer, director, producer and actor, including his highly lauded Spanish-language production of Macbeth.
“Aside from his work in the theater,” she said, “Enmanuel is an activist in human rights, animal rights, and equality. He has continued to serve various organizations with never-ending dedication.”
Villavicencio is also founder of the eARTh and Lorca Al Desnudo Theatre Festivals.
Food and fun
Three individuals at the event were presented with certificates of appreciation from the City of Union City: Ms. Ines Berges, Mr. Sigfrido Duarte, and Ms. Elsa Jiminez.
Guest speaker Freddy Gomez, president of Instituto Duartiano and director of La Noticia newspaper, provided an impassioned speech in Spanish about the history and legacy of the Dominican Republic.
“We celebrate 170 years of Dominican Independence Day,” he said afterward, referring to how the Dominican Republic and Haiti occupy the same island, and in 1822 Haiti invaded and took over the whole island. “We have Independence Day on Feb. 27, 1844. That’s Independence Day from Haiti. A lot of people think we hate Haiti. We don’t hate nobody. That’s our neighbor. We love.”
“I live here for 33 years,” he said of his home in America. “I am president of the Dominican Parade. My son is born here. My grandson is born here. I love America.”
Closing out the presentations were spirited dance exhibitions by the Union City High School Dancers and Jessi Garcia and Dean Seda.
Alberto Plummer Y Su Havana Rumba Capitan bookended the event with high-energy musical performances. Members of the audience took to the dance floor while others enjoyed a typical Dominican meal.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.