Harrisburg honors Dominican Independence Day with three Dominicans elected in the State House
“The fact that we can raise a foreign flag, the fact that we can waive a foreign flag is amazing,” Reading Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz remarked.
Last year, Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz — then the Vice President of Reading City Council — was handed an award for serving as the first Dominican woman in the role, alongside Allentown City Council Vice President Dr. Cynthia Mota.
Today, State Representative Cepeda-Freytiz gave an award as an elected official at the steps of the Harrisburg Capitol Rotunda, where lawmakers gathered to mark Dominican Independence Day on Monday, Feb. 27, marking 179 years of sovereignty for the Dominican Republic.
“Indescribable,” is how Cepeda-Freytiz described the spirit of the event.
“I think it’s important to show our community que sí, se puede (yes, we can),” said Cepeda-Freytiz, daughter of Dominican immigrants.
“We need someone that identifies with our needs. That understands our culture, our language, and can be a true advocate and a real voice for us,” she continued.
Indeed, some of the districts represented onstage at this week’s event have observed significant growth in the Latino population. In 2020, Berks, Reading, and Philly boasted the highest multi-racial and ethnic surplus, where Latinos rank the highest in population growth.
“The Dominican flag is red, white, and blue, just like the American flag. It’s symbolic of how we got here, first, how we claimed independence as a country, but second, our accomplishments here in the [United States],” said Cepeda-Freytiz.
Cepeda-Freytiz, from PA’s 129th District, is the latest Latina to drive an upset election in Reading after dramatic redistricting split Reading into three legislative regions, as opposed to the previous two, accounting for its growing Latino population.
At a victory party that immediately followed the 2022 election results, Rep. Manny Guzmán delivered remarks on behalf of Cepeda-Freytiz that were reminiscent of his sentiments given at the Capitol last year when he stressed the importance of creating opportunities “for future generations.”
“What’s gonna happen from here on out, and I’ve said this before, is that our opportunities as [the] Latino bloc here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are only gonna increase,” said Guzmán, introducing then Rep.-elect Cepeda-Freytiz.
Guzmán, who represents Berk’s 127th District, is the second Dominican elected to PA’s State House.
But the one who broke ground on increased Latino visibility at the state level is Danilo Burgos, the first Dominican man elected to the PA State House, serving District 191, which accounts for parts of Kensington and Hunting Park, both overwhelmingly Latino parts of Philadelphia.
Burgos’s region neighbors that of newly-elected José Giral of District 180, which contains parts of Erie, Frankford, and Juniata, all of which — similarly to Burgos — are Latino neighborhoods.
Giral, a Puerto Rican man, succeeded longtime State Rep. Ángel Cruz, who is also Puerto Rican.