Monday is Virgin Islands – Puerto Rico Friendship Day. Annually, this holiday celebrates the good relations between the neighboring territories and the importance of Puerto Ricans and their cultural contributions to the USVI.
VI/PR Friendship Day was declared a holiday in 1964 by VI local Legislation under the leadership of Governor Ralph E. Paiewonsky and is declared each year to land on the same day as Columbus Day. According to a document from the VI Department of Education, it was thought that this particular day, marking the discovery of the Western World, would be appropriate for “commemorating the solidarity of Americans in the Caribbean.” It also coordinates with Hispanic Heritage Month.
So, each year, the date changes with this notable holiday to fall on a Monday in October as proclaimed by the Governor of the Virgin Islands:
“The Governor of the Virgin Islands shall, by proclamation not less than thirty days before said date, designate Columbus Day each year as “Virgin Islands—Puerto Rico Friendship Day” within the Virgin Islands. He shall call upon the citizens of the Virgin Islands to observe the occasion with ceremonies honoring Puerto Ricans residing in our midst and other Puerto Ricans who have made substantial contributions to the advancement and progress of the Virgin Islands.”
Puerto Ricans mark the highest population of immigrants in the VI. In a documentary on this subject in produced in 2009, it was estimated that Puerto Ricans made up 30% of the population in their neighboring territory. In the 30’s, economic downturn and US occupation of the island of Vieques began a massive migration of Puerto Ricans to St. Croix in search of work. The documentary, entitled “Sugar Pathways,” is a celebrated film by St. Croix filmmaker Johanna Bermúdez-Ruiz. It encapsulates the history of this migration and the development of good relations between the immigrants and their VI hosts.
Every year, activities coordinated by the Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Committee on St. Croix and St. Thomas celebrate the Puerto Rican heritage and culture that has become a fixture in the Virgin Islands. Typically, the activities consist of block parties, museum exhibits, a parade, an awards ceremony and a Queen Selection Competition for a lucky young lady to become the next Miss Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship.
In the 56th year of this celebration of friendship, the committees have aimed to continue these festivities with social distancing in mind. They will not be coordinating the annual parade and block party that typically commemorate the good relations between the islands. Instead, they are being creative and going virtual. The festivities will span begin today, October 7, at 1pmon the VIPR Friendship Committee’s Facebook page.