New Britain is now home to the largest monument on the U.S. mainland to the highly decorated 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers. The new monument, at the corner of Washington and Beaver Streets, prominently graces the main route from the north into the city’s center.
The dedication ceremony was held on April 28, 2018 at the new city park in the unit’s honor, with numerous dignitaries in attendance, including the U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, Governor Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, Mayor Erin Stewart, State Sen. Terry Gerratana, State Rep. Bobby Sanchez, State Rep. Peter Tercyak, Rep. Rick Lopes, members of the New Britain City Council and officials from other cities and towns.
Rep. Sanchez said that is proud that the monument is complete, “and that New Britain has been put on the map as a city that has the first unique park in honor of the Borrinqueneers in the U.S. mainland.”
The 65th was organized as a military unit on Puerto Rico in 1898 and its soldiers were primarily Puerto Rican. The unit fought in both World War I and World War II. The Borinqueneers’ service in the Korean War is especially honored.
The 65th Infantry was noted for its bravery in numerous battles in the Korean War. Soldiers of the 65th received 2,771 Purple Hearts, 606 Bronze Stars, 10 Distinguished Service Crosses and a Medal of Honor. Sixty-one thousand Puerto Ricans served in the military during the Korean War, and more than 700 gave their lives in the war.
Members of the unit faced discrimination and segregation, and overcame these and many other obstacles.
Over the years, leaders in New Britain’s Puerto Rican community, notably former Police Commission Chair Manuel Reyes, have advocated for honoring the veterans of the 65th.
The monument to the 65th Infantry was made possible by $300,000 in state funding secured through the efforts of the city’s legislative delegation last year, led by Rep. Sanchez. Sanchez said that, “The people who served in the 65th Infantry would be so proud that they have not been forgotten and the past couple of years, starting with the Congressional Medal of Honor, we have seen many come together to honor the men and women that served in the 65th.”
“Its true that in other states there are small monuments that have been erected in honor of the Borrinqueneers,” Sanchez said, “but this one here in New Britain is the largest and most unique and we should all be proud.”
Sanchez said, “I want to thank everyone that has been involved in this project and has embraced the effort to get this done. Our delegation in Hartford, including the former late Rep. Betty Boukus, Rep. Peter Tercyak, Rep. Rick Lopes, and Sen. Terry Gerratana. I want to thank our Governor, Gov. Malloy, for his support for the bonding, former Mayor Tim O’Brien and current Mayor Erin Stewart, the 65th Infantry Historical society group, Alderman Emmanuel Sanchez, Alderman Willie Pabon, Alderman Kristian Rosado, Alderman Richard Reyes, New Britain Latino Coalition and Carmelo Rodriguez, the NB veterans Commission and the dedicated professionals who designed and built the Monument.”