The unofficial start of the summer usually happens on the second Sunday in June when the National Puerto Rican Day Parade kicks off on 5th Ave. and 38th St. and makes its way up the parade route ending at 74th St. where well over a million parade revelers waved flags and danced to salsa and hip-hop. Marking the 56th anniversary of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade was an honor to both the state of Rhode Island and the pueblo of Guayanilla. This year’s parade theme was Salud: Celebrating your health. The sun-filled day was perfect for thousands of marchers to show off their Puerto Rican power and pride and show off some of their dance moves. As usual the mounted police signaled the start of the parade soon after followed by the Honorable Mayor Bloomberg. The excitement was building soon after as more parade VIPs including NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and mayoral candidates marched up the parade route waving to potential voters for the big election come November. Then the fun started. Grand Marshall Chita Rivera was driven up the parade route waving to the crowd like the royalty of entertainment she earned.
The honored town or pueblo of Guayanilla sent their representatives to the parade and proudly waved the flag just before two impressive High School bands marched playing some classic Latin jazz hits. They could compete against any American HS band. Next came a crowd favorite.. the all female drum band called Batala from DC. They rocked as usual. Keeping the tradition of authentic costume, music and dance were some plena dancers. One float representing a local union 1199 Healthcare workers had the best plena singer I have seen in a while. They got the crowd worked up for another annual favorite..Estrellas Tropicales, the all-female baton twirlers from Boston. They had a fun dance routine and kept the flow going. Taking it to the next level was Sky Blue from LFMAO with 92.3 NOW-FM radio personalities, the lovely Lala and Lulu on the front of the float getting the crowd worked up to a fever pitch. Keeping the crowd worked up were more celebrities including legendary salsa singer Jose “El Canario” Alberto, the various talking heads from Univision news, but the one that got the most attention was the Colombian superstar Carlos Vives.
A special treat from the island were the Ballet Folklorico from Vega Alta with their unique dance moves that kept the crowd worked up. They were not to be outdone by another dance studio,Pointe, with a more modern flare from the pueblo of Aguada. Everyone that goes to the parade knows when the group from Loiza comes in. The demon masked costumes and acrobatic stilt walkers make them instant hits. More salsa music came jamming from another local union float with a timbale player that was channeling Tito Puente for a bit. One thing about this parade that stands out is the selection of fine automobiles brought in from the island and locally. From antique vehicles to hot rods to suped up low riders, the car enthusiast was not disappointed at all. A pleasant surprise was a salsa dance group from Manhattan called Young Ambition that showed how teens can really dance salsa…great to see the tradition passed on and the young ones embracing the art form. Vaya…. Closing out the parade were some favorites including Daddy Yankee, John Brackett, and the crowd for 1st International Hip Hop Parade coming up in July in the Bronx. The parade was very much representative of the Puerto Rican community …loud and proud and lots of fun to be with…and more than anything..enjoying life.
Yo Soy Boricua…Pa que tu lo sepa….