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The Guatemalan flag outside of Philadelphia City Hall. Photo credit: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News
The Guatemalan flag outside of Philadelphia City Hall. Photo credit: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News

Raising a flag to Guatemalans in Philadelphia

A flag-raising ceremony hosted by Guate en Philly and the Consulate General of Guatemala in Phila. was held at City Hall on Thursday to honor Guatemala Day.

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On May 19, the Guatemalan flag was raised at Philadelphia City Hall as Mayor Jim Kenney — through city representative Sheila Hess — declared the day Guatemala Day. 

“The City of Philadelphia that has long welcomed the immigration of Guatemalan citizens into our city… We are proud to join with each and every one of you in the Guatemalan community of Philadelphia, where we will celebrate the engaged community of citizens of Guatemalan heritage, who are an integral part of making our City of Philadelphia a welcoming and diverse City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love,” Hess said. 

Celebrated since 2017, Guatemala Day was originally declared on May 16. As of 2018, there are around 10,000 Guatemalan people living in Philadelphia. 

Alain Joinville, Director of Strategic Communications and Programs at the Philadelphia Office of Immigrant Affairs, echoed sentiments from Hess’ speech by saying, “The city of Philadelphia is proud to be a welcoming city where our 232,000 immigrants call home. Today, we celebrate the Guatemalan community that is here with us. And I want to express my gratitude to each of you for selecting Philadelphia as a place to live, work, and play.” 

Speeches were also given by representatives from the Consulate General of Guatemala in Philadelphia and the organization Guate en Philly. Guate en Philly is an organization that promotes economic and social wellbeing by connecting the Guatemalan community to opportunities in Philadelphia. 

The Consulate representative spoke about the history of the Guatemalan flag and its design. The colors of white in the middle with light blue on either side represents how the country has the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Caribbean Ocean to the east. 

The flag was originally designed by the Conservative government in 1847 but was modified by the Liberal government after the Liberal Revolution of June 13, 1871. The flag is partially modeled on the Argentinian flag. The most notable difference is that the stripes on the Argentinian flag are horizontal while the stripes on the Guatemalan flag are vertical. 

After the flag was raised, Manuel Portillo, Director of Community Engagement at the Welcoming Center, presented awards to members of the local Guatemalan community who have made important contributions to their community, and the larger Philadelphian community.  

The first was to Jeferson Santiago of Marimba Tumbadora Orquidia Cubulenze. Marimba Tumbadora Orquidia Cubulenze is a group of local Guatemalan musicians who played marimba music throughout the program. 

Zulma Guzman was also honored for her work as a community leader. She provides people in her community with resources and helps them navigate the process of things such as registering their children for school. She was honored for the impact of her work on the Guatemalan community, even though she herself is not Guatemalan. 

The third went to Sofia De Leon, founder of El Merkury, a Guatemalan restaurant with locations in the Reading Terminal Market and on Chestnut Street. De Leon was honored for being a business leader. 

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