Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem (again)

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13


They came from Puerto Rico to Pa. after Hurricane Maria

We owe this interesting article to Councilwoman Olga Negron, whom followers will remember did a recent Bethlehem Moment, “Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem.”

They are coming again, but as CW Negron says, now things are different.

  • To be sure, Puerto Rico residents have been relocating to Pennsylvania for decades, lured here by jobs in the steel mills, farms and factories. But the migration pattern in the wake of Hurricane Maria has been noticeably different.
  • Not everyone who has left the financially troubled island has needed social or Negronpublic assistance. These days, a substantial number of new arrivals from Puerto Rico are prepared to pivot directly into jobs, professions or college. “This migration is very different than any other before,” said Olga Negrón, a member of the Bethlehem City Council and the Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley. “Many of them are bilingual. They have professions or a level of education capacity to get higher paying jobs. They were ready to work. Ready to interview and get a job.”
  • Two years ago, Negrón, herself a Puerto Rico native, helped spearhead a grassroot effort to assist hurricane refugees find homes, schools and whatever public services they needed in the Lehigh Valley, which became a major destination for hurricane refugees. She found that a substantial number needed little assistance. “We are seeing a lot more at the professional level than we were used to in the last few years, maybe it’s because the influx has been going on for so long,” Negrón said.

CW Negron’s “Moment” awakened an interest in Gadfly to know more about local Puerto Rican historia, and didn’t Gadfly librarian and HomeworkGiver Tony Hanna send him a reference to a book precisely on that subject precisely at that time.

The space for the next Bethlehem Moment is now unexpectedly open, so Gadfly’s going to try to do another moment of Puerto Rican local history with its aid for next Council meeting.

Hmm, Gadfly is also curious about Portuguese in Bethlehem. In old news stories Gadfly has seen political meetings held at the Portuguese Club, and we still have one, don’t we? Gadfly wonders about the Bethlehem-Portuguese connection. Anyone help?

Festival UnBound

Gadfly turns 1!

Born September 16, 2018, just at this time — 2PM


Definition of gadfly
1: any of various flies that annoy livestock

2: a person who stimulates other people especially by persistent criticism
3: someone who challenges people in positions of power


1,032 posts and 365 days later.

The ceremonial time to touch base with the beginning, with the original purpose, with the original spirit.

A time to take stock.

What is Gadfly about?

That introduction is pretty pompous, pretty idealistic, but I still subscribe to its essence.

And won’t rewrite. In fact, you can’t rewrite what is in effect the creating moment.

At that creating moment you aren’t really in control, and you can’t re-live it.

I still believe that the fantasies we have shape the lives we lead.

Mine is a Norman Rockwell fantasy of Bethlehem as the small town embodied in the “Freedom of Speech” painting and Rockwell’s other works.

A place of good will, a place of mutual respect, a place where residents care and participate, a place where leaders listen as they lead.

I try to run Gadfly as an example of democracy in action, a place for healthy dialog about issues that concern our city.

I love your voices, as I have tried to show you time after time.

I’m not sure I’ll change anything of substance in the upcoming year.

But I would like to see some changes:

  • more original posts from you, the followers — not just comments on my posts or the posts of others, but thoughtful, original, chain-starting posts


  • and this might be a bridge too far in the trust that can be built in just a year, but posts from our elected officials and city administrators providing facts, trying out ideas, sharing visions, correcting misconceptions, combating ignorance — trusting the value of what we can never have too much of, good communication, good conversation

“Good conversation builds community.”

Another source for Bethlehem history

(Latest in a series of posts on local color and Bethlehem Moments)


The last two weeks there have been the kind of history stories dear to Gadfly’s heart in the Bethlehem Press.

Stories about the little things and people, the overlooked things and people.

By bethlehemhistory@gmail.com.

That’s Jason Rehm, Bethlehem native, Liberty grad ’07, a history major at Houghton College, whose final essay on Bethlehem history led Karen Samuels to facilitate his writing occasional pieces for the Bethlehem Press.

Which reminds me to encourage you to subscribe to the BP. BP is our community newspaper. And community is magic for Gadfly.

Subscribe to the BP, and be on the lookout for Jason’s essays.

Two very good things to do.

Jason Rehm, “Life during the Great Depression.” Bethlehem Press, August 27, 2019.

My grandfather, Woody Rehm, 88, grew up the sixth of seven children during the Great Depression. Like most families during that time, they were poor. The Rehms moved often, all over town and sometimes just down the street, looking for cheaper rent.

Jason Rehm, “Old Main Street fountain’s history explained.” Bethlehem Press, September 3, 2019.

The Eliza Richardson Fountain on Main Street has long been a mystery. Who was she and why does the fountain bear her name? Answers were hard to come by, but as various records were unearthed, they began to piece together a picture of a fascinating woman deserving to be remembered.

Gadfly’s walking report card at the 2/3’s mark

Gadfly uses you for discipline, for conscience.

He’s enrolled in the “Tail on the Trail” challenge sponsored by St. Luke’s.

The challenge is to walk 165 miles (the length of the Delaware and Lehigh canal) between May 1 and November 1 = 6 months.

Gadfly set himself the goal of doubling the challenge = 330 miles.

We’re 2/3’s there. 4 months down, 2 to go.

And at 256 miles he’s a bit ahead of the pace.

Tail 5
Now that Gadfly is on public record again, he must finish. Or for penance wear his sneakers around his neck to Council meetings.

Wave if you see him hoofin’ around town, along the river, or on the Saucon Trail.

And he’s planning to do a 1/2 marathon in November.

Now that he’s told you, he must finish that too.

Living in the public eye has its burdens.

O Little Town of Bethlehem Popping Up All Over the Big Big World

(The Gadfly invites your “local color” reflections of this sort***)

Michael Colón is a lifelong Bethlehem resident and enthusiast. He also moonlights as a City Councilman. 

Dear Gadfly,

Now that we’ve closed out another Musikfest that brought people from near and far to our fine city, I wanted to share recent experiences that truly highlight how coincidental life is. Both involve trips out of state; both involve our two colleges.

The first happenstance was last month while I was on a trip out west. One arid, Arizona evening some of my extended family took me out to Sedona to see a desert sunset. Whilst hiking up a large rock, we noticed a young man perched way ahead atop the crag. His father was in earshot of our comments and shared he unfortunately didn’t have his phone to capture this great photo opportunity. My aunt volunteered to text it to him, while asking for his number. “717” he started before we interrupted him. Turns out the family is from Lancaster meeting up with their son while he’s on a one-man road show in a used RV for the summer because he just earned his master’s degree from our very own Lehigh University.  The young man negotiated with his employer, located in Bethlehem Township, to start after Labor Day, allowing him this chance to see the country all summer in his hopefully reliable used RV. As he descended, we had a chance to speak to the young man named Justin. My family and I shared we’re Bethlehem folk too. We wished him well in his travels and career, then continued on as strangers passing on a rock, 2500 miles from home, known to each other only because of the need for a cell phone camera. If his father would’ve had his phone, would we even know that we’ve all come from one tiny area of earth all this way to share this view of AZ together on an even smaller patch of earth?  Likely not.

The second event occurred a couple weeks ago. On a hot Saturday with nothing on the schedule for either of us, my girlfriend and I decided to hit the beach (or go down the shore). We chose Point Pleasant for no reason other than my youngest brother talks about it. We walked up the boardwalk, choosing a beach entrance at random. As we paid to get onto the sand, we were instructed to wait for “one of the guys” who would give us a beach umbrella. Our “guy” working on the beach was a teenager who after telling us to follow him turned around displaying a Moravian College drawstring bag on his back. We immediately shared with the young beach-hand that we’re from Bethlehem. “Is that near Moravian?” he asked. Turns out this 16-year-old Jersey Shore local is the son of someone in a management position at the college. He knew Moravian is a college where his dad worked and that it isn’t close to home. He learned locals from Bethlehem like to tell him about it. After kindly helping us plant our umbrella, he returned to work; my girlfriend tuned out my drumming about how coincidental this was, and I got sunburn on my foot. Out of all the beach towns we chose that one, out of all the beach entrances we chose that one, and out of all the employees helping out we got that one. What are the chances?

I share these stories because I’m fascinated by luck, fate, coincidence, or whatever other word you want to attach to it. We’ll never truly know how many close encounters pass us by, but when we do become aware of the stranger on the desert rock or the kid at the beach, it is a unique experience. Admittedly I’ll always be partial to the ones about our not so little town of Bethlehem.

Thanks for reading, and if you feel so inclined, please share your stories of Bethlehem turning up in unexpected places outside the Valley.


*** From the Gadfly About page: “Local Color: original creative work with recognizably local Bethlehem subjects or connections — art, poems, mini-essays, vignettes, photographs, songs — that help us see or think about our town and townspeople in interesting ways.” Please do follow Michael’s lead and take him up on his invitation.

Southside sights

(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside)

Gadfly is just catching up with this notice of a new eating establishment in the new 3rd and New building (is it still called Gateway at Greenway Park?).

Eat like an Egyptian


Looks like it may fill the third retail space from the corner heading up (south) New toward 4th Street.


Wonder what’s happening with the other spaces — especially the corner one, which you would assume is the flagship location.

Seem like a long time with no action here?

One also can not help but notice the trash storage area at the entrance to the Greenway. Uck. Would assume that something is in the works for dealing with this unsightliness better in the streetscape plans for this stretch of New St.