Keeping its culture alive is all we can hope for. Doing what we can to ensure that the traditions handed down by our ancestors are then passed on to future generations is vital for all cultures. Here in Hoboken, there is a vibrant history of Puerto Ricans who made the journey from the island shortly after the city was founded. Today Raul Morales ll, a Hoboken native with Puerto Rican roots, helps foster the community that remains. in town, Raul Senior. We spoke with Raul about his current role, what he hopes to achieve with the Committee, how he is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and more.
Elected president of the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee in February 2020, Raul follows in his father’s footsteps as a local Latino leader in town.
The committee itself was formed by his father, Tom Olivieri (who also made huge contributions to the city. Read more about him here), and other leaders of the Latinx community, started the PRCC at mid-1980s. Raul Senior served as chairman for over 30 years and continues to support the committee under Raul’s leadership – a true local legacy.
^ Raul hoisting the flag at the 2021 ceremony
Hoboken girl: What do you think inspired your father to lead the organization and what inspired you to lead it now?
Raul Morales II: My father’s inspiration for starting and leading the organization was my sister and me. He wanted an organization that promotes Puerto Rican history, culture, and language in the city of Hoboken, especially for children in the Puerto Rican Diaspora.
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My inspiration to lead the CEP comes from my education. My parents emphasized being at the service of your community. They would take my sister and I to meetings and events so that we could see the issues affecting our community and the work it took to find solutions. In doing so, I was surrounded by many Puerto Rican pioneers in Hoboken and Hudson County. It developed a great sense of pride in being Puerto Rican and being from Hoboken.
^ Raul with Committee Scholarship Recipients
HG: Can you tell us a bit about the history of the Committee and what is its mission / the events it is organizing today?
RM: The Hoboken Puerto Rican Cultural Committee is a community organization whose main objective is the preservation of Puerto Rican heritage. Each year, we strive to maintain and foster our historical pride through a variety of cultural and civic activities, such as the annual senior’s luncheon, Latin evening sponsorship for the Hoboken summer concert series at the Sinatra Park, the senior Christmas party and the raising of the Puerto Rican flag. Hoboken town hall ceremony, a local tradition for 54 years.
In addition, the Puerto Rican Culture Committee has a University Scholarship Fund which for the past 26 years has awarded scholarships to graduates of Hoboken High School. Since this year, we have awarded over $ 78,000.00 in scholarships. Most of our recipients are the first person in their families to graduate from university.
HG: As President, what are your goals for the Committee for this coming year?
RM: My goal for the coming year is to continue to navigate the CEP through this pandemic and deliver safe and meaningful events. I also want to work on increasing the number of members. I believe that with a stronger membership we can continue the annual events and look for new ways to expand our reach within the city.
^ Raul speaking at Hoboken 2020 Puerto Rican flag raising ceremony
HG: What was it like growing up in Hoboken as a Puerto Rican? What were your favorite memories?
RM: Growing up in Hoboken was the best. Being part of such a diverse and cohesive community has given me many positive and wonderful memories. My favorite memories growing up were spending time with my friends playing sports. Some of my friends today are the ones I made through sports.
HG: What does it mean to you to be Latino?
RM: My favorite part of our heritage is the emphasis on family and community. This is why I am grateful to the Puerto Rican and Hoboken community who always support CEP events and fundraising and I am touched by the committee members who trust me to lead the CEP.
HG: You also occupy additional positions within the local administration. Tell us about your roles as an Assistant Lawyer for Hudson County and Administrator of the Hudson County Bar Association.
RM: I have had the pleasure of serving as the Hudson County Special Assistant Deputy since 2014. In this role, my primary responsibility is to oversee the Superior Court Section of the Attorney General’s Court. Since my appointment, I have strived to make the court process as user-friendly as possible for Pro Se.
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On August 31, 2021, I was elected a director of the Hudson County Bar Association. Over the past few weeks, I have been reaching out to members of the Hudson County Bar Association to find ways to be of service to the members.
^ Raul with other members of the Puerto Rican community
HG: How do you celebrate this Hispanic Heritage Month?
RM: I am celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by working with the CEP Board of Directors to plan and prepare for the remaining 2021 events and looking towards 2022 as an opportunity to offer more cultural and civic events.