Keeping one’s cultura alive – that’s all we can hope for. Doing what we can to make sure that traditions passed down by our ancestors are then passed down to future generations is vital for all cultures. Here in Hoboken, there is a vibrant history of Puerto Ricans that made the journey over from the island when not long after the city was founded. Today, helping to foster the community that remains is Raul Morales ll, a native of Hoboken with Puerto Rican roots is doing his part as the President of the Hoboken Puerto Rican Cultural Committee (PRCC) that was co-founded by his father, a legend in town, Raul Senior. We chatted with Raul about his current role, what he hopes to achieve through the Committee, how he’s celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, and more.
Elected as President of the Puerto Rican Cultural Committee in February 2020, Raul is following in his father’s footsteps as a local Latino leader in town.
The Committee itself was formed by his father, Tom Olivieri (who has also made enormous contributions to the town. Read more about him here), and other Latinx community leaders, started the PRCC in the mid-1980s. Raul Senior served as President for over 30 years and continues to support the Committee under Raul’s leadership – a true local legacy.
^ Raul raising the flag at the 2021 ceremony
Hoboken Girl: What would you say inspired your father to lead the organization and what has inspired you to now lead it?
Raul Morales ll: My father’s inspiration for creating and leading the organization was my sister and me. He wanted an organization that promoted the history, culture, and language of Puerto Rico in the City of Hoboken, specifically for the children of the Puerto Rican diaspora.
My inspiration for leading the PRCC comes from my upbringing. My parents emphasized being of service to your community. They would take my sister and I to meetings and events so that we could see the issues impacting our community and the work it took to find solutions. In doing so, I was surrounded by many Puerto Rican trailblazers in Hoboken and Hudson County. This developed a great sense of pride in being Puerto Rican and being from Hoboken.
^ Raul with recipients of the Committee’s educational scholarships
HG: Can you tell us a little bit about the history of the Committee and what its mission is/events it holds today?
RM: The Puerto Rican Culture Committee of Hoboken is a community-based organization whose primary goal is the preservation of the Puerto Rican Heritage. Every year we strive to maintain and foster our historical pride through a variety of cultural and civic activities, such as the Annual Senior Luncheon, Sponsoring Latin Night for the Hoboken Summer Concert Series at Sinatra Park, Senior Christmas Party, and the Puerto Rican Flag Raising Ceremony at Hoboken City Hall, a local tradition for 54 years.
In addition, the Puerto Rican Culture Committee has an academic Scholarship Fund, that over the past 26 years has awarded scholarships for graduates of Hoboken High School. As of this year, we have awarded over $78,000.00 in scholarships. Most of our recipients are the first person in their families to pursue a college degree.
HG: As President, what are your goals for the Committee for this upcoming year?
RM: My goal for the upcoming year is to continue navigating the PRCC through this pandemic and to provide safe and meaningful events. I also want to work on increasing the membership. I believe that with a more robust membership, we can continue the annual events and look for new ways to expand our outreach within the City.
^ Raul speaking at the 2020 Puerto Rican Hoboken Flag Raising Ceremony
HG: What was it like growing up in Hoboken as a Puerto Rican? What were some of your favorite memories?
RM: Growing up in Hoboken was the best. To be a part of such a diverse and cohesive community afforded me a lot of positive and great memories. My favorite memories growing up were spending time with my friends playing sports. Some of my friends today are those I made through sports.
HG: What does it mean to you to be Latino?
RM: My favorite part of our heritage is the emphasis on family and community. That is why I am thankful for the Puerto Rican and Hoboken community who always support PRCC events and fundraising and am humbled by the members of the Committee who have the faith in me to lead the PRCC.
HG: You also hold additional positions in the local government. Tell us about your roles as Deputy Surrogate for Hudson County and a trustee of the Hudson County Bar Association.
RM: I have had the pleasure of serving as the Special Deputy Surrogate of Hudson County since 2014. In said position, my main responsibility is to oversee the Superior Court section of the Surrogate’s Court. Since my appointment, I have worked to make the Court process as Pro Se friendly as possible.
On August 31, 2021, I was elected as a Trustee of the Hudson County Bar Association. Over the past few weeks, I have been reaching out to members of the Hudson County Bar Association to find ways to be of service to the membership.
^ Raul with fellow Puerto Rican community members
HG: How are you celebrating this Hispanic Heritage Month?
RM: I am celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by working with the executive board of the PRCC to plan and prepare for the remaining events of 2021 and looking towards 2022 as an opportunity to offer more cultural and civic events.