Post Office in El Barrio Dedicated to Tito Puente
By Ismael Nunez
In East Harlem, there’s a street, there's a school, there's talk of having a statue one day, and now there's a post office that bears his name: Tito Puente.
After all, Puente is considered one of Latin music’s greatest band leaders and musicians. A plaque was recently unveiled in Puente’s memory and it hangs in the lobby of the post office at 167 East 124 Street.
Congressman Charles Rangel, who had introduced the bill to have the post office dedicated in Puente's honor, was among those who attended a Sept. 10 ceremony to celebrate.
“Tito Puente was more than a musician, more than a ambassador," Rangel said. "The personality he had (brought) people of different colors and cultures together.
"Young people and adults will have the honor of knowing who this person was, and people who knew him can share who this great musician was," he said. "Most importantly, (they will know) that he loved people."
Patricia McGovern, spokeswoman for the postal services in the New York Metro Area, said, “It’s a great honor to have this building dedicated to him. Many are not aware he was born/raised in the neighborhood. This dedication was solely appropriate."
As the dedication shifted to the Taino Towers Crystal Ballroom where live music filled the air and Latin food was served, several community people shared their thoughts.
"It is great; the best thing currently to have happened in this community was to name a building in his honor," said Charley Diaz, head of the Stickball Hall of Fame. "I know and the community knows there will be more dedications like this taking place."
Nina Olson, director of Development/Publicity/Community Outreach for the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, described Puente as "an amazing profound musician/bandleader."
"He took this music all over the world," she said. "He was also very concerned about musical education. The conservatory was one of the sponsors for the Tito Puente Scholarship Fund, the conservatory was a favorite of his. His generosity, his music, the conservatory will continue to educate the next future generations of musicians."
Joe Conzo, who is in charge of the “Tito Puente Legacy Project” at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, said, “He would’ve loved this dedication; he’s watching it now."
As the band started to play some Puente's classics, Conzo said, “He’s playing the drums, leading the band, he’s still with us in spirit and heart."
Ismael Nunez is a freelance writer based in El Barrio who contributes his writings to Puerto Rico Sun.