Three Kings Deliver for Zulay

Lisa Reisman | January 6th, 2024

Three Kings Deliver for Zulay

Culture & Community  |  Arts & Culture  |  New Haven Free Public Library  |  The Hill  |  Arts & Anti-racism

Zulay Rodriguez at the Wilson Branch Library. Photos Lisa Reisman.

Four-year-old Zulay Rodriguez waited in line at the Wilson Branch Library, her eyes fixed in anticipation.

She stood patiently with other children and their families in the Washington Avenue library’s lower level on a Thursday afternoon for the annual Three Kings Day/Dia de Los Reyes celebration commemorating the story of the three wise men who arrived bearing gifts for  a newly born baby named Jesus.

Wilson Branch Children's Librarian  Ziogas. 

Dia de Los Reyes is  “the most important event we do each year because a huge portion of our community is Puerto Rican, ” Children's Librarian Michelle Ziogas said.

Rosca de reyes.

The roughly 50 guests, most of them families, had the chance to enjoy the sweet bread known as  rosca de reyes. Some would find a small plastic baby Jesus figurine embedded inside.

“Whoever finds it gets good luck, but also has to host a party,” Library Tech Kristy Manning said while handing out the treat.

Story time with Ziogas and YPD Officer Jeremy Cordero.

Then Ziogas and Officer Jeremy Cordero of Yale Police Department took the stage. The two read aloud “Dreams of Green.”  With Ziogas reading in English and Cordero in Spanish, the two shared the story of a girl named Lucia living in a snow-blanketed Ohio who yearns to be home in tropical Puerto Rico celebrating Dia de los Reyes with her family and friends.

The story ends when Lucia realizes that she can recreate the tradition of Dia de Los Reyes wherever she goes. Then, a dramatic pause from Ziogas and Officer Cordero.

From the back of the room, three kings, otherwise known as librarians Luis Chavez-Brumell, Jessica Robayo, and Jeffrey Panettiere, proceeded to the front table with regal solemnity.

New Haven Police Department K-9 Sunny, led by  Detective Christopher Boyle, played the role of a camel signaling that much like for Lucia, the tradition can carry on in New Haven. Library staff wheeled out carts loaded with gift bags and categorized by age.  A queue of youngsters snaked to the back of the room.  

Stephanie Gonzalez with her daughter.

“We’ve come every year,” said Stephanie Gonzalez, who brought her children, including her newest baby. “We believe in the Three Kings so this means a lot.”

Wilson Branch Manager Meghan Currey.

Wilson branch manager Meghan Currey marveled at this year's turnout.

“We did it outdoors during Covid, so it’s great to be able to offer something inside now,” she said, as bomba music pulsated through the brightly lit space. “And it’s a multi-cultural crowd, it’s serving everyone, not just one particular group.”

Former Wilson Branch Manager Luis Chavez-Brumell

She lauded Chavez-Brumell, the former Wilson branch manager and now deputy director at New Haven Free Public Library, for his involvement in the Three Kings library celebration before her arrival.

“This started in 2021 with a donation from Yale’s Peabody Museum gift shop during its renovation,” Chavez-Brumell said while taking a break from handing out gift bags.

He credited Panettiere for his efforts in sustaining the tradition.

The three kings: Luis Chavez-Brumell, Jessica Robayo, and Jeffrey Panettiere.

“Do you like dinosaurs?” Panettiere said to a young boy standing alongside him. “Coloring books?

“We’re now in our third year, and we’re building up momentum,” he said, highlighting Fashionista Vintage & Variety for providing the imperial finery each year. It represents “a way to promote New Haven’s cultural equity plan.” 

The plan, which launched in 2022, focuses on “weaving equity into our systems” by “expanding our imagination about what culture looks like, who creates culture, and where culture happens,” according to

For Ziogas, the event embodies the essential role that libraries play in a community.

“This is about inviting people to a place where they feel welcomed, no matter their circumstances,” she said. “Earlier a woman said she was working and she couldn’t stay for the whole event, but she’d love for her three kids to get a gift so we made that happen.”

Kevin and Jannelli Rodriguez.

Kevin and Jannelli Rodriguez brought their two-month-old daughter, Sarai.

“My family always celebrated back home, and it’s nice to have it here,” he said, as little Zulay scurried past him towards her mother, Maritza Rodriguez.

Zulay and her mother, Maritza Rodriguez. 

“Look,” Zulay said, showing her mother Maritza Rodriguez a Barbie, a soft smile on her face