Commemorating the 212th anniversary of Venezuela’s independence in Philadelphia
The Venezuelan community in Philadelphia celebrated the South American country‘s independence during a flag raising ceremony at City Hall on July 6.
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This year marks 212 years since Venezuela gained its independence from Spanish rule.
To commemorate the historic day, two local organizations — Gente de Venezuela and Casa de Venezuela — came together with City officials to put together a flag-raising ceremony outside of Philadelphia’s City Hall on Thursday, July 6.
The ceremony was hosted by NBC10/Telemundo62 reporter Isabel Sánchez, who for the second straight year had the opportunity to represent her native country during this annual flag-raising ceremony.
Given the current situation going on in Venezuela, Sánchez noted that the flag raising is less of a celebration and more of a commemoration of the freedom of Venezuelans “as we struggle again with a political crisis that has driven more than 7 million people outside of the country,” she said.
“All of us are part of that group,” Sánchez added, referring to the several dozen individuals who gathered outside City Hall for the event.
This marked the 8th time that the City of Philadelphia has hosted a Venezuelan Flag Raising ceremony event.
Fernando Torres, executive director of Casa de Venezuela, noted that “the history of this event started in 2016.”
As Torres stood in the birthplace of the United States, he took the opportunity to highlight the roots of the Venezuelan community that lives in Philadelphia.
Namely, he mentioned Francisco de Miranda, the Venezuelan-born revolutionary leader and military hero who fought in the American Revolution.
A bronze statue of Miranda has stood near Ben Franklin Parkway since 1977, a gift by the Venezuelan government to celebrate Philadelphia’s bicentennial.
He also mentioned Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan military and political leader whose descendants attended Germantown Academy in Philadelphia.
“It’s important to remember that Venezuelans and Americans go back from the beginning of this country,” said Torres.
Similar to the remarks made by Sánchez, Torres underscored that Venezuela is not currently free, as it is instead under a dictatorship.
While millions of Venezuelans have had to escape their native country, more than 80,000 have made Pennsylvania their new home — thousands of which are in Philadelphia.
As that number figures to grow in the coming years, Torres closed his remarks with a very important message.
“We’re here to give, not to take,” he said. “We are adding to this country.”
In correlation to this point, the event also served to recognize Venezuelan professionals who are enriching the region each day.
Three Venezuelan doctors — Dr. Daniel Salerno, Dr. Sadia Benzaquen and Dr. Eliot Friedman — were recently selected to the Top Doctors 2023 list.
Two of the doctors were in attendance to give some brief remarks.
“We’re very happy to be contributors to the country that has received us,” said Dr. Friedman.
In addition to the honors, the event also included the singing of the national anthems for both the United States and Venezuela, performed by Alex Moreno.
The flag was officially raised during his singing of the latter.
The Venezuelan Flag Raising event is part of the City’s Philadelphia Honors Diversity Flag Raising Program, which celebrates the heritage of the many immigrant communities that call Philadelphia home.
Harianned Chaurel, events and communications specialist for the City of Philadelphia, is also a native of Venezuela.
“Being here today is an honor for so many reasons,” she said.
For her, the flag-raising event has a much deeper meaning.
“It’s a reminder of the mutual respect and support Venezuelans and Philadelphians have given each other through time,” Chaurel said.
During the flag-raising ceremony, Chaurel had the opportunity to read a proclamation from Mayor Jim Kenney.
As part of the proclamation, Kenney officially designated July 6, 2023, as Venezuelan Independence Day in Philadelphia, in honor of the many contributions Venezuelans make across the city each day.
Several other notable speakers took part in the flag-raising ceremony, including Angie Medero-Gallelli, operations director for Gente de Venezuela; Olga Negron, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs; Tiffany Chang, director of Multicultural Affairs at the Office of Immigrant Affairs; and others.
The formal portion of the flag-raising ceremony was followed by a reception inside City Hall, in which two other notable Venezuelan leaders were honored — basketball star Sam Shephard and Spanish-language Philadelphia Phillies announcer Oscar Budejen.