York, Pa.’s, Spanish Council organized in 1974

The York Daily Record/Sunday News is running a four-day series on Latinos in York/Adams and surrounding counties.
It is focusing on the second generation of Latinos to live here, a fast-growing segment of the American population.
When did the first generation start coming of age in York County? The following excerpt from “Never to be Forgotten” and a subsequent story on the death of pioneer Dr. Edwin Rivera provide some insight.


From ‘Never to be Forgotten’

Delma Rivera, a native of Puerto Rico, helped found the York Spanish Council to work with York’s growing Latino population to better its standard of living.
The council spearheaded development of a Spanish community center in 1974.
Rivera and her physician-husband, Edwin, subsequently worked to enhance job opportunities, education and health and welfare of Latinos in the York community.
Census numbers for 2000 place Latinos at better than 3 percent of York County’s population.
Puerto Rico native Abe Amoros is the first Latino elected to city council in York. Voters elected him in 1991.

From the York Daily Record, April 2006:
With voices sometimes swollen with grief, the three children of Edwin A. Rivera couldn’t speak at his funeral Friday without sharing memories of a multi-talented physician with a funny streak.
His father became a fatherless child at age 5, Edwin R. Rivera said at the 90-minute service at First Presbyterian Church in York. He grew up poor and worked hard for his education.
“He was courageous enough to travel to different cities and new cultures,” Rivera said. “He was courageous enough to maintain his faith in the Spanish culture.”
Several people mentioned Edwin A. Rivera’s 38 years as a York physician who helped found the Spanish American Center in the early 1970s.
His son remembered being called to admire birds in the backyard. He remembered the day his father performed CPR on the family’s beloved collie.
“He had a very, very silly side,” Rivera said.
This upstanding citizen almost got himself arrested 13 years ago, Rivera said. He had dressed up like a sheik, drove to a friend’s house, turned on a loud recording of Arabian music and knocked on the door. The adults were not home. Their alarmed son refused to answer the doorbell and called police.
He told of his father’s love for sledding on Reservoir Hill.
“One January, in two feet of snow, he asked me to take a photograph of him on the sled wearing a Speedo swimsuit,” Rivera said as people chuckled.
They laughed again when he described his father as the proud owner of a big, red, ugly, velvet bow tie.
“We have many photographs of it,” Rivera said. “I think my mother accidentally threw it out in 1989.”
His antics taught his family to turn frowns upside down.
The last day of his life, Rivera said, his father, at the age of 76, found the strength to utter two words to the woman who was his friend, his wife and his caretaker the last 10 years — “Mi amor,” my love.
“I cannot think of a more noble and great way to express the kindness, gratitude and love that he expressed to my mother and to all of us,” Rivera said.
Delma Rivera-Lytle recalled her father’s indomitable spirit through four devastating strokes the last nine years of his life. She was in Puerto Rico when she learned of his death. She said she felt great anger and guilt about being away.
Upon her return, she walked past the church in York where her parents were married.
“I pictured them leaving the church 52 years ago,” Rivera-Lytle said. “I knew that the best decision dad made in his life was the woman he married. His devotion to her has been an inspiration to all of us.”
He snapped photos of everybody who visited their home and always had them pose beside his Corvette, Rivera-Lytle said.
His friend and fellow physician William Rexrode spoke of Rivera’s plethora of hobbies, his joy in healing, the depth of his faith, and his refusal to yield everything to his mounting disabilities.
He used a three-wheel walker to move about. One day, Rivera insisted on tackling the Heritage Rail Trail County Park. Now, the trail was not designed for walkers, but Rivera managed to cover 1 1/2 miles, Rexrode said.
“Edwin Rivera loved people,” Rexrode said. “On the scale of one to 10, Ed was a 15.”


Also of interest:

Rivera family, pioneering Hispanics, saw a need in York, Pa., and founded the York Spanish-American Center.

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.

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