April 2014 Blog

First I want to thank all those blog readers who came to the Silas Bronson Library and John Bale Bookstore, Waterbury, in support of myself and my memoir Moon Shadow Of War https://www.createspace.com/4330714, and, most importantly, peace and the environment.

Next up is a reading and discussion at the Bethany Library, Saturday, May 3rd, 2 PM. It’s right on route 63 at the caution light in Bethany. I’ll also be at the Bethlehem Library, Sunday, May 18th, 3 PM, Bethlehem center with 9 other authors. Come join these exciting discussions.
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Mr. Bartoletti was my neighbor as I grew up in the North End of Waterbury. I used to watch him go off to work at Fulton Park that sprawled out just below my family home on the dead end side of Tudor Street. He was an immigrant from Italy.

I played football, baseball, and basketball and swam in the pool at Fulton Park. The Olmsted Bros., the architectural firm who also designed Central Park in New York City, also designed this multi-use park of green, open space and water. While playing sports and walking its many trails, I would see truckloads of men being ferried hither and yon. Many were Italian immigrants, including my neighbor Mr. Bartoletti, who kept this active park in tip-top shape.

Earth Day is about making connections. Along with the biosphere, these involve people who are an integral part of nature. Immigrant history, especially as it pertains to the environment, is part of the hidden history of our country.

Immigrants keep contributing to our environment and communities into the 21st century. Listen to the words of Jose Marti, Cuban Independence fighter back in the 19th Century:

“Yo soy un hombre sincero,
De donde crece la palma,
Y antes de morirme quiero
E char mis versos del alma.”

Loosely translated,

I’m just a sincere man who is trying –
To do some good before dying,
To ask each man and his brother –
To bear no ill toward each other.
This life will never be hollow –
To those who listen and follow.

Every time I hear those words by Jose Marti in his poem and song Guantanamera, I think of Naugatuck resident Felipe Flores. It’s really a love song and that sums up Felipe Flores, because his love extends from his wife, Susanne, family, and to those in his community here, in Mexico, and globally.

At the same time, his love and sincerity is based also on his understanding of science, especially in ecology. He understands the danger to our climate if the Keystone XL pipeline should become a reality. He understands passive open space mitigates climate change. CO2 is taken in here. Asphalt can’t do that. Green organisms can.

This entry is from my journal, 9/26/1995. Vaneza Guoveia, Casey Knittle , girl scouts with their scout leader, Maria Folsom, came to a passive open space meeting at the Stop & Shop Community Room (We are, unfortunately, losing these community rooms in Naugatuck.) concerning land in the Gunntown Neighborhood. Ed Coelho and Felipe Flores were there.

We mark that date, September 26th, 1995, as the beginning of the Committee for a Cultural/Environmental Center – Gunntown Road. This is the group dedicated to preserve 39 acres of historic and ecologically important passive open space in Gunntown.

Felipe Flores’ name is in my journals for the next 19 years concerning the battle. Here’s just a sample,

– July 1998 Discussions on the Land. These were a series of discussions on the environment. Felipe led one of these on land battles in Mexico. It gave us an international perspective on such struggles.

– April 1999 – Felipe led the program, Tai Chi on the Land. Among his many skills, he is a Tai Chi instructor.

– May & June of 2000. The Stolen Boy Play. It was Felipe who spotted the grant at NVCC with the phone Co. that help make this dramatic production come to life on the land in the Gunntown neighborhood of Naugatuck. Then he became the official organizer of the drama. He won the producer / director to the project. (We have found out since that this was the first outdoor play on the Colonial Revolution in Connecticut.)

There were countless organizational meetings and town hall events to save this beautiful passive open space. Felipe clearly was and is the best extemporaneous speaker the environment has in Naugatuck.

It doesn’t stop there because Felipe’s concept of community is broad. Of course many students, including from Naugatuck, attend Naugatuck Valley Community College where he was a Math professor. Felipe set to work.

– He organized the Hispanic Student Union there.

– He kicked off, with those students and other student clubs, going to the Saint Vincent DePaul Food Center, Baldwin St. in Waterbury where the homeless gather. That work is on going. The hardest aspect of organizational work is the following question. Will it endure when you are not there? Felipe retired from the community college. The work by Community College students for the homeless continues.

– He created and helped organize the Unity Film Series at the Community College. Unity here means racial, national, cultural & political diversity. He always emphasizes what we have in common – our families, our environment.

– Personally, he convinced me to participate in the regional Labor Council. His point was that we needed Labor involved with the environment and that I had to learn about organized Labor. He was a leader in our educators’ union at the Community College.

– He is a Eucharistic Minister at his church and sang in the choir.

– In retirement, he has written a white paper with a colleague on how to organize an environmental and people friendly housing project. He calls it Vision Village.

– He is a candidate for the State Sponsored Commission on the Future. This commission will be planning out the conversion of military production to green, peace –time production in Connecticut.

How many people know that this immigrant from Mexico made these contributions to our town and greater community? Hopefully more will after writing.

I’ll sum this up with a number of messages that were received upon people learning that Felipe Flores was nominated for Naugatuck’s Earth Day Mayor of the Day.

Casey Knittle – “Felipe has been an inspiration to me as a humble leader in the fight to preserve the town land on Gunntown Road. His kind, wise demeanor shines in his commitment to the good things in this world; honoring the value of natural open spaces, equality, justice, and social action with the future generations in mind.”

Kit Salazar Smith of the Regional Labor Council – “Congratulations Felipe!!!”

I received this one when Felipe was first mentioned as a candidate for Earth Day Mayor. It Said, “I want Felipe, not to be just Earth Day Mayor of the Day, I nominate him for Mayor.”

When you touch one part of the environment you find out it is connected to the rest of the universe. John Muir, who made this statement, started the Sierra Club. He is considered the father of our National Park System. John Muir was an immigrant from Scotland. Like so many immigrants, he contributed to our economy and culture.

We owe this immigrant for teaching environmentalists an important tactic on how to influence those in power. Muir used to take politicians to special natural areas to better understand their importance. Many think President Teddy Roosevelt started our National Park System. It was John Muir who button-hooked Roosevelt to scenic and ecologically important lands and waterways in our country.

With great historical beauty, it goes on. Felipe led yet another Tai Chi lesson at the Gunntown Passive Park & Nature Preserve later that Earth Day morning on April 25, 2014. And taking a page out of John Muir’s legacy, with deep breathing and arms swinging skyward, there was Mayor Bob Mezzo of Naugatuck.

The next time you walk the Gunntown Passive Park and Nature Preserve, be sure to say, Gracias Senor Felipe Flores.

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