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Issuance of Borinqueneer Congressional Medal Faces Delay

It has been reported that the Borinqueneers are frustrated by the fact that the Congressional Gold Medal approved by President Obama last year has still not been issued.

Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to the president pointing out that four of the Borinqueneers, all living members of which group are in their 80s by now, have died since the declaration. Dennis Freytes, the son of one of the Borinqueneers and a tireless worker for the medal, is quoted as saying that this medal should be “fast-tracked,” in light of the advanced age of the remaining recipients.

The Borinqueneers, a Puerto Rican regiment which was the last segregated regiment to be honored by a Congressional Gold Medal, are an important part of U.S. military history, and of Puerto Rico’s history.

But is the medal being delayed by “red tape” as has been suggested? The record of a recent Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee meeting suggests otherwise.

The CCAC is a citizen committee on coinage which holds meetings which are open to the public. Hubert Walker for Coin Week reported on the meeting of this committee which considered the Borinqueneers’ medal.

Here are just some of the considerations they discussed:

  • The history of the Borinqueneers and their importance to the people of Puerto Rico were presented in order to make sure that the committee understood the full import of their decisions. Sam Rodríguez, Washington, D.C. Liaison and Operations Coordinator of the Borinqueneers Design Liaison Team, joined April Stafford, Program Manager of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Sales and Marketing, in leading this part of the discussion.
  • Stafford also listed a group of motifs and themes recommended by her office for use on the medal: 65th Infantry Regiment, “Borinqueneers”, the regiment’s crossed rifles insignia, their dates of activity and the wars in which they fought (WWI, WWII, and Korea), their motto HONOR ET FIDELITAS, El Morro in San Juan, their Maltese cross insignia, and laurel wreaths.
  • A number of interested parties, including Freytas, shared their own views, from a simple request that the medal be “memorable” to very specific and lengthy suggestions. Each of the ideas was apparently discussed thoroughly, with reference to other coins and medals that might be confusingly similar and to design principles.
  • Extended discussion continued with questions like whether people actually read words incorporated into the designs and how a design might be made to stand out from the generic military medal design.
  • Numerous designs which had been submitted already were presented, and plans were made to provide copies of all of them to the committee.
  • Committee members also were reminded of the size of the medal, since many of the proposed designs were very ornate and complex, and the number of elements on the growing list was large.

The description of the meeting makes it clear that a great deal of discussion, much concern for the views of people in and around the regiment, and much thought on the success of the design have been involved in the decision making.

The meeting was on January 27th. What has been happening up to that time?

Rep. Pierluisi reported at that time that the Borinqueneers Design Liaison Team had created a website to solicit designs and received 130 designs. The team then created a 75 page report for the U.S. Mint. Other citizens had also sent designs.

The process is not finished.

All the input will now be distilled into a design brief for the U.S. Mint artists. The artists will create multiple designs and one will be chosen. It will have to be approved by the U.S. Treasury, struck by the mint, and then presented ceremoniously before duplicates are offered to the American people for purchase.

Could the process have been conducted more efficiently? Perhaps. It appears, however, that the issuers chose a time-intensive strategy that was designed to invite and allow as much input as possible.

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