Why state Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. wears a cowboy hat

Rubén Díaz Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr.
Rubén Díaz Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr.
Ali Garber
Rubén Díaz Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr.

Why state Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. wears a cowboy hat

Rubén Díaz Sr. and Rubén Díaz Jr. give keynote speeches at City & State's Bronx borough series
August 30, 2017

State Sen. Rubén Díaz Sr. is known for many things – his socially conservative views, his role in the state Senate coup of 2009, his complicated relationship with his son, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.

But what stands out as much as anything is what he wears on his head.

“Why the cowboy hat? Many of you don’t know the reason why,” the younger Díaz said at City & State’s recent event celebrating the Bronx. “My father is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, they have different pueblos, they have different towns, and every town has a team, they have intermural sports, and every town has a mascot.”

The mascot for Bayamón, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, is a cowboy – or in Spanish, a vaquero – the borough president noted.

“So when those of us who are a little bit younger, and we use phrases and terminology like ‘keep it real’ and ‘represent,’ and ‘never forget where you come from,’ my old man wears that hat in homage to his hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico,” Díaz explained, gesturing towards his father. “Hence, he’s the cowboy, el vaquero de Bayamon.”

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The borough president, who differs with his father on issues like same-sex marriage, also reminded the audience that he was actually the first in his family to get elected to public office. He was elected to the Assembly in 1996, while his father joined the New York City Council in 2002.

“I’m going to continue to fight with you when we disagree,” the younger Díaz said, adding with a grin: “You gotta remember that you are Rubén Díaz Sr., but I’m the senior elected official in the family.”

Díaz Sr., who is seeking to return to the New York City Council in this fall’s elections, addressed the audience following his son’s speech and recounted how he struggled as a young man and found redemption as an immigrant in New York.

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“I want to go to City Hall to keep fighting. People say I’m 74 years old … I just got surgery, my back, my front, but I’m still – he told me not to do this! He told me not to do this!” the state senator said as he pointed at his son. He then stepped away from the podium to make a full turn before the audience.

“Why should I resign?” he said. “I still have energy, I still have the knowledge, I have the will, I have the eagerness to do these things, and we will see marvelous things in the 18th councilmanic district.”

Jon Lentz
is City & State’s former editor-in-chief.