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Transcript: Mayor de Blasio Delivers Remarks at 2015 Puerto Rican Heritage Reception

June 12, 2015

Mayor de Blasio: [Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]

It is a thrill to be with you – an honor to be with you to celebrate la isla del encanto.

[Applause]

And the impact that Puerto Rico has made on all of us and on this city – if you love New York City, you have to love Puerto Rico.

[Applause]

[Mayor speaks in Spanish]

I want to tell you, everyone – everyone wants to be a part of this celebration tonight. You’re going to hear from these extraordinary honorees. You’re going to hear from our speaker, Melissa Mark Viverito, in just a moment. But let me just take a quick moment because the stars have come out tonight – all the other people wanted to be here and be a part of this. I’m just going to let you hear all the names of the folks gathered around us. You can applaud them all.

Together – our deputy Mayor Richard Buery; our commissioner for health, Mary Basset; our director for contract services, Lisette Camillo; director of New York City Service, Paula Gavin; commissioner for Media and Entertainment, Cynthia Lopez; commissioner for human rights Carmelyn Malalis; the commissioner for the Office of OATH, Fidel del Valle; commissioner of DDC Feniosky Peña-Mora; commissioner of community affairs, Marco Carrion; and our director of appointments, Rachel Lauter.

[Applause]

Now, what about the elected officials that are here? How about the borough president of the Bronx, Ruben Diaz, Jr –

[Applause]

The borough president of Manhattan, Gail Brewer –

[Applause]

Assembly member Jose Rivera – but wait, there’s more. Former borough president of the Bronx, Freddy Ferrer –

[Applause]

And our brothers from the labor movement – Denis Rivera of SIU and George Miranda of the teamsters. Thank you so much to everyone for being here.

Now, even in government, we have to acknowledge our sponsors. So let’s thank tonight’s sponsors – Goya Foods, let’s thank them.

[Applause]

Let’s thank the entertainment this evening – the extraordinary Son del Barrio.

[Applause]

And we have a group of mayors from Puerto Rico who have joined us this evening – Alcaldes del Puerto Rico – let’s thank all of them for being here with us.

[Applause]

Now, I want you to know what I’ve been doing with my time since we last met for this reception last year. I told you that I was the leading non-Puerto Rican expert on mofongo.

[Laughter]

And I have been continuing my research with several important visits with several important visits to Puerto Rico, doing detailed research all the time. So I will have a report for you latest in mofongo trends in the coming months.

Now, on Sunday – the 58th Puerto Rican day parade – we are going to celebrate this rich history. And the beauty of this history – yes, it’s the music, it is the food, it is the culture, but it is first and foremost the people who shaped this city and made us great. We are another Puerto Rican city that just drifted a little farther north, and we are proud of that.

So if we want to talk about the people, let’s talk about two exemplary Puerto Ricans. Two people who came up from the grassroots to be examples to us all. Their names are household words and beloved to all of us. First, a man whose music has been part of the soundtrack of that parade and of life in this city – Eddie Palmieri.

[Applause]

The son of parents who came to this city –

[Applause]

The son of parents who came to this city – Eddie from the beginning felt the music, the history, the culture of Puerto Rico, and he wanted to express it in music and then he wanted to add to it something he found here in New York – and that something was jazz. And he put them together and he became a cultural trailblazer. Forty years ago, he won the first Grammy for Latin music.

[Applause]

And Eddie Palmieri did not ever limit himself just to his artistic creativity. He gave something back. He believes strongly in a better world. He supported Cesar Chavez with his music. He supported people in prison with his music. He used his music as a tool to uplift us. Brothers and sisters, this is a real New Yorker. And there are so many reasons why, but I’ll give you the simplest – because he is not afraid to play his own rhythm. And that is why today, June 11th, 2015, it is my honor to declare it as Eddie Palmieri Day in the city of New York.

[Applause]

Shall we hear from the maestro himself? Ladies and gentleman, Eddie Palmieri.

[Applause]

Mayor: I’ll give you a little extra height here, brother.

Eddie Palmieri: Thank you, thank you. Bueno – buenas noches.

[Eddie Palmieri speaks in Spanish]

But anyway, I want to thank the Mayor Bill de Blasio, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Arnie Segarra, Jose Encarnacion, Judge Torres, Borough President Rubin Diaz. And I am so honored that this has been bestowed on me. And then we have the most beautiful Rita Moreno, which is a legend for us.

[Applause]

So thank you very, very much in my heart. It’s a wonderful honor and I’ll always remember. Muchas gracias.

Mayor: Brothers and sisters, it actually gets better. Because now – I told her before she’s an icon. You know there are stars, there are VIPs – and then there are icons. I want to just see with your voices and see if you agree with this statement. Do you agree with me that Rita Moreno is an icon?

[Applause]

Mayor: The Grand Marshall of the parade this year. Now, there are so many things you could talk about. You could talk about West Side Story. You could talk about her legendary performance on the Muppet Show. You could talk about all of the things she did. But think about – think about this woman who started out in a working family, who had so much talent, so much personality, so much drive, that she is one of only 11 people on this earth to have won an Emmy, plus a Grammy, plus an Oscar, plus a Tony.

[Applause]

She does it all. And that is why it is my honor to also declare June 11, 2015, in the City of New York as Rita Moreno Day.

[Applause]

Mayor: Shall we hear from Rita Moreno?

[Applause]

Rita Moreno: Hola.

[Rita Moreno speaks in Spanish]

Well, I guess there are some Americans here, so I should speak a little American. I want to say I may be one of the luckiest people in the world. Let me explain. There is today – this amazing thing. On Sunday, I will be the Grand Marshal of el desfilo. Viva. I am the happiest Puerto Rican woman I know. I wake up singing in the morning because I’m 83 and I’m still here.

[Applause]

And as if that were not enough, I just made an album that is produced by Emilio Estefan.

[Applause]

En Español.

[Rita Moreno speaks in Spanish]

So in the fall, I hope you will get the album and agree with me that I’m a very, very lucky woman. Gracias, muchas gracias.

Mayor: And I want to give a special honorable mention and a special acknowledgment this evening – because a lot of us who are watching TV nowadays, we don’t see enough shows that actually represent all of our communities and the reality of life today. One of the shows that has been a real breakthrough, and a breath of fresh air and an inspiration, has been the show Jane the Virgin. Who is familiar with Jane the Virgin? Well, we’re honored – I’d like to acknowledge and thank her. Joining us, who plays the wonderful character of the grandmother, Alba, I’d like to acknowledge and thank Ivonne Coll. Thank you so much for being here tonight, Ivonne.

[Applause]

I just think it is important to remember – in this city today, in this city today where so many serious issues are confronting us, we are blessed to have a leader in our City Council who makes us all proud in so many ways. She makes us proud because of the fact that she is a true progressive. She makes us proud because she is a serious and substantive person who makes a difference for so many New Yorkers. She makes us proud because she is the first Latina to hold citywide office in the history of New York City.

[Applause]

And I want to say it’s my honor, not just to work with Melissa Mark-Viverito every day on the issues affecting New York City, but we also work together when we know the needs of Puerto Rico are on the line. And right now, brothers and sisters, Puerto Rico is going through a very tough time. And I – I think you’ll agree with me that our leaders in Washington DC are not doing enough to help Puerto Rico in its hour of need.

[Applause]

So at Melissa’s urging, and with her partnership, I am working with mayors all across the country who have large Puerto Rican communities. And we’re calling upon President Obama and we’re calling upon the Congress to ease the financial burden of Puerto Rico, to help Puerto Rico at this moment in its history.

[Applause]

We have to help the Puerto Rican people. We have to protect the future of Puerto Rico. We should be a nation – when one is in trouble, all rise to the defense of whoever is in need. That was our tradition and it needs to be again. And we will lead that effort here in New York City. So without further ado, it is my great honor to present to you the Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito.

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