Two years after graduating from Lawrence High, Jessica Cruz
said she realized how blessed she is to come from Lawrence.
"I think what makes Lawrence so special is not only the mesh of different cultures, languages and traditions, but also the unity that exists among the community and the support we give one another," she said.
Cruz, a student at Hamilton University in New York, was guest speaker at the VIP Luncheon, which kicks off Semana Hispana or Hispanic Week in Lawrence.
"Hispanic Week is a celebration of Latin American culture," said Marisa Melendez, one of the emcee.
The week-long event includes nation nights where representatives from Peru, Colombia, Haiti, Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Mexico showcase their culture through food, dancing and music.
A moment of silence was held in memory of Enrique Lantigua, father of Mayor William Lantigua who died June 2 in Florida.
Shanell Veronica Sanchez, who was crowned Miss Hispanic Week 2013, was introduced to the crowd.
"I'm very happy and proud to represent my community in a positive way," Sanchez said. "It shows hard work pays off and never give up."
In addition, parade grand marshals Virginia Lavayen Garcia and Ivon Gois were officially introduced. Garcia has been a crossing guard for the City of Lawrence and a teacher's aide at the Henry K. Oliver School.
Gois is with Gois Broadcasting that has radio stations in the Merrimack Valley, Worcester and Connecticut.
In her speech, Cruz said while things in the city may not be perfect, "we are neither doomed nor unworthy."
"There is so much beauty in this city and it is important that we open our eyes and see it," Cruz said. "Lawrence has so much worth and it starts with the people of the community striving, working and believing we can make a difference."
The Hispanic Week book was dedicated in memory of Luis Bonilla, who hosted a show of Puerto Rican folk music for 15 years.
"He was a great friend, a great family man and a great human being," Melendez said.
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