This morning, an entire stretch of Southern Boulevard in the Bronx, New York is to be co-named “La 65 de Infanteria Boulevard” in honor of the Puerto Rican regiment of the United States Army, otherwise known as the “Borinqueneers,” during World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
“Co-naming Southern Blvd. ‘La 65 de Infanteria Blvd.’ is an honorable recognition that the ‘Borinqueneers’ truly deserve for their brilliant record of heroism on the battlefield,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. in a statement. “Thousands of Puerto Ricans, many of [whom] live right here in God’s country the Bronx, have served courageously as ‘Borinqueneers’ since World War I. The Bronx honors and thanks them for their sacrifices and service to our country and offers its eternal gratitude. Their gallantry in battle and standard of conduct in overcoming adversity, has earned the ‘Borinqueneers’ our lifelong respect and I am proud to stand with the community to celebrate this historic event.”
More than 20,000 Puerto Ricans served as Borinqueneers since World War I, and the most served during the Korean War such as, Eugenio Quevedo, who is now 86.
“This recognition is huge to honor this American Army,” says Quevedo who was 24 when he was drafted to serve in Korea from 1950 to 1956. “It’s 60 years later, but it makes me very happy.”
He says in Spanish that he will, God-willing, be in attendance at the unveiling of the new street name.
“I have friends who lost their sight, their arms…but I give thanks to God that nothing happened to me except for going months without bathing, without brushing my teeth, and wearing the same clothes for months,” says Quevedo. “But anybody can adapt to any situation. I’m one of the few who survived.”
According to “All POW-MIA Korean War Casualties,” there were 732 Puerto Rican casualties in the Korean War, or one in every 42 U.S. casualties was a Puerto Rican.
“The Puerto Ricans forming the ranks of the gallant 65th Infantry give daily proof on the battlefields of Korea of their courage, determination and resolute will to victory, their invincible loyalty to the United States and their fervent devotion to those immutable principles of human relations which the Americans of the Continent and of Puerto Rico have in common…,” General Douglas MacArthur wrote on February 12, 1951. “I wish that we could count on many more like them.”
Noemi Figueroa Soulet, who dedicated nearly a decade to making a documentary about the Borinqueneers, says she’s happy for this long-deserved recognition.
“For some people it might mean a small measure of recognition, but it didn’t exist before so it’s important,” says Soulet who is now working on getting them the Congressional Gold Medal. “I think that more and more things like this are happening all over the country. In Florida, they named a park in the name of the 65th, in Buffalo they are making a Hispanic-American monument where they’ll be making a plaque for the 65th. I think that’s wonderful, don’t you?”