Passaic Statue Angers Residents

Alexander MacInnes, Record (Bergen, NJ), Sept. 15, 2009

What was billed as Mayor Alex D. Blanco’s first attempt at celebrating the city’s diversity and multicultural fabric has sparked anger within the city’s dwindling black population, many members of which believe the community is being overlooked.

The event Sunday honored Mexico’s independence from Spain and drew more than 10,000 spectators who came to Passaic to see the wildly popular musical group, Los Temerarios. Part of the festivities included the construction and unveiling of a plaster statue of Adolfo Angel and Gustavo Angel–the brothers who lead the Mexico-based group.

City officials allowed the temporary statue to be placed on the median of State Street–just behind the Speer Village public housing development, a development home to many of the city’s black residents. On Monday, angry residents held a protest over the statue’s placement, saying it was a slap in the face to their community.

Residents said the singers portrayed have done nothing for the city of Passaic or Speer Village, which is the city’s largest public housing complex. Some said the black community has long had a strong presence in Speer Village, an area that is surrounded by a city that is predominantly Hispanic.

“This is a population of black people,” said Rolanda Curry, a Speer Village resident, near the statue. “There are not many Mexicans here. This is right where we live. It’s very disrespectful.”

The festival was the first in Blanco’s plan to put on more parties to honor the various cultures in this diverse city. Blanco could not be reached on Tuesday for comment, but Anthony Iacono, the city’s business administrator, said the mayor meant no disrespect by the statue’s placement. The city chose that location because it greets visitors coming into Passaic from Route 21.

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Iacono, noting that the statue will be removed from the present location sometime in the near future, said the event, and the statue, should be examples of acceptance in a city rich with diversity.

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Tamara Morales, vice president of Casa Puebla, a Mexican-American social activist group in Passaic, said she was disappointed that there is so much protest over where a temporary statue stands.

“They should be more tolerant and accepting,” Morales said. “The fact that it’s in front of Speer Village doesn’t mean we’re trying to take over something that is not ours. We’re not trying to step on anyone’s toes.”

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