Tropical Heat Turns Up on 5th Ave. For the National Puerto Rican Day Parade

12 Jun
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Vejigantes starts up the parade

On one of the hottest days of the year, it was more than the temperature that was getting heated on the parade route on 5th Ave. for the 60th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Like many Spanish speaking folks would say, Aqui Hay Candela…(there’s fire going on here and not the kind FDNY can put out). This years version of the parade started off with controversy as Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former member of the militant FALN and pardoned by Pres. Obama at the end of his last term, marched in the parade. His appearance caused many big longtime sponsors like Goya Foods, Univision, AT&T, Coca-Cola, JetBlue and others to pull-out. Heavy weight politicians like NY Governor Andrew Cuomo , the NYPD and FDNY also declined to attend. Initially, parade organizers wished to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera with the “National Freedom Hero” award, but he later declined the award and preferred to march and bring awareness to the multitude of issues hurting the island. Ironically, the parade was held on the same day a referendum vote was held on the island. Even the voting process had some controversy to it. Bottom line was the vote for statehood won by overwhelming majority vote and is now waiting for the US Congress to act. Good luck with that. Congress failed to act on an earlier referendum with a higher voter turnout in 2012.  Many of the issues revolve around the bankruptcy filing earlier this year and its effects on the island population like closing of schools and hospitals. A decade long middle-class migration to the US, nefarious financial dealings, and a decline in tourism have all contributed to the precarious economic situation the island finds itself in. Marching with Oscar was a large contingency wearing the black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag that is symbolic of the Resistance movement.

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Oscar Lopez Rivera – the face of the Resistance

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A call for Unity

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Jibaros Getting In on the Action

The parade usually draws about 2 million spectators but between the heat and the controversy, there was about half that size crowd. This parade is known to be the loudest and proudest of all the parades. There were still plenty of people screaming at the top of their lungs for love of the island. Kicking things off was the 1199 Union float with a singer having lots of fun with the crowd. Grand Marshall, salsa legend Gilberto Santa Rosa, made his way up the parade route followed closely by the Madrina, actress and singer Iris Chacon. One of the better floats came from the NYS Nurses Association with a great rumba band and some hot dancers. A newbie to the parade came all the way from Lorain, Ohio with a nice tribute to Tito Puente. They were pretty good. Sometimes a group gives a nice surprise with their performance and Los Hacheros float had some traditional sounds that made you feel like you were on a beach somewhere on the island. A returning group that keeps making a nice impression were the baton twirling Batuteras de Junco. Keeping the heat up were the XDance group. They have swag and not afraid to show it.

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Gilberto Santa Rosa

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Plena Dancers

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XDance Getting Ready to Show Off Their Moves

Even though the parade ended earlier than other years and the turnout was not as much as in previous years, it was still a fun parade. There were lots of flags, dancing, happy faces and plenty of  to talk about after the parade was over. No matter what your opinion is of Oscar marching in the parade, there’s a crisis going on in la Isla del Encanto, the enchanted island. Even in the face of a looming storm, Puerto Ricans find a way to have fun and love all that is good from the island.

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Yo Soy Boricua, ‘pa que tu lo sepa!!

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