June is the busiest parade month of the year and it’s also fitting that the largest parade in NYC is held this month. Rachel and I were getting ready for the start of the 54th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and the 16th as a National Organization. With a record 80,000 marchers scheduled to show their Puerto Rican pride up 5th Ave. from 46th St. to 79th St., security was tight around the area where the marchers were getting ready so Rachel and I weren’t able to see the preparations for the big parade. Many of the marchers are invited guests from the island of Puerto Rico representing their pueblos with marchers and bands. This year the main pueblos were Cabo Rojo celebrating its 240th anniversary and Patillas celebrating their 200th anniversary. This year’s theme of the parade is “Celebrating the natural beauty of Puerto Rico”. With just a few minutes left before the parade started, the streets were filled with revelers waving their flags and blowing their whistles and horns. It felt more like the countdown to New Year’s The NYC Marching Band started out with good old blue eyes rendition of New York, New York. For a second I thought I was at Yankee Stadium after a win. Parades this large always draw the big politicians and all the heavyweights were out today including the honorable Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Andrew Cuomo standing next the former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and other parade VIPs. Then the fun really started.
The first float and marchers from Cabo Rojo appeared followed by the municipal leaders and marching band and salsa band with young dancers in colorful gowns showing off their dance moves to the cheering crowd. They all dressed in the navy blue polo shirts to match the color of the municipal flag. Right after them came the Patillas float singing the parade favorite song….Que Bonita Bandera..what a beautiful flag…the Puerto Rican flag. The sounds of salsa music filled the air as people were dancing in the streets and showing off their Puerto Rican pride. One of the largest Puerto Rican flags was carried out by the Goya float. The Grand Marshalls of this year’s parade are the president of Goya Foods, Inc, Robert I. Unanue and president of Goya Foods Puerto Rico, Carlos Unanue presented one of the better displays of Puerto Rican pride especially with the sponsorship of the thunderous all female drum band Batala. They were a crowd pleaser and really set the tone for the rest of the procession which can be best described as loud and proud.
Preserving their goal of celebrating the natural beauty of the island was the world renown Sierra Club. They helped to educate the crowd of the need to protect the natural environment of the land shared with the some endangered animals like the leatherback sea turtle. On that green theme were also two groups of bike clubs that rode their tricked out pedal bikes up 5th Ave. One man’s bike might have had hydraulics for the front tire. A treat for most revelers is watching the young children dancing and dressed up. They surely were not disappointed. Getting family and friends together to celebrate Puerto Rican pride is a thrill for many and Rachel and I saw the excitement on the faces of the Aponte and Cruz families. Baudilio Cruz came from Cabo Rojo to see his first ever Puerto Rican parade and was happy with everything he saw. He was joined with his family and parade veteran Jesus Aponte, a retired police officer from Staten Island. We were all getting anxious to see this years Kings of the Parade, salsa legendary band, El Gran Combo. They were playing great music in the 80s and any salsero will tell you they are the best of the best. The blaring trumpets of one of their most popular hits, Un Verano en Nueva York (A Summer in NY), and the incredible salsa dancers signaled their arrival. Even though their music has been played in every parade since the 80s, this was actually their first parade in person. What a blast!!
A parade just isn’t a parade without a marching band and although NYC has hundreds to choose from, it was a treat to see two marching bands from Juncos and Guaynabo Puerto Rico show the crowd their style. Not bad. A procession of salsa and bomba y plena dancers made their way to the cheers of the crowd. The float from Loiza got plenty of attention from their dancers and men dressed up in diablo costumes. Dancers Dreamzzz got one of the largest cheers from the crowd as the young dancers turned it out mixing old school styles and new styles. The tail end of the parade was no doubt the loudest as car clubs blasted their salsa, reggaeton and hip hop from their monster speakers. The dancing in the streets just kept going to close to 6pm with over 2 million in attendance hoping the parade would continue. Arguably the loudest and proudest parade had to come to a close …until next year …
Yo soy Boricua…pa que tu lo sepa.
For more report and photos click on these CNN links below:
Sat. June 18th ~ Mermaid Parade~ W. 21st St and Surf Ave. Coney Island ~ 2pm
Sun June 26th ~ Pride Parade ~ 36th St and 5th Ave. ~ noon