Puerto Ricans Turn Celebration Into Remembrance

11 Jun
IMG_7092

Mourning Those Lost After Hurricane Maria

      The parade route along 5th Avenue was getting louder as the 61st annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade was due to kick off around 11am. This is one of the largest and loudest parades the city offers with marchers coming in from all around the country and groups coming in from the island of Puerto Rico as a show of unity. Many signs along the parade route were a reminder of the devastation Hurricane Maria inflicted on the island. The more popular ones were Puerto Rico Se Levanta (Puerto Rico will Rise) and signs with the numbers 4,645+, an estimate of the total death count from September 20 through December 31, 2017, as conducted by a recent study from Harvard University. This figure has turned into a rallying cry as another example of the disparity of what has been reported by the Federal response, which is 64 deaths, and what is actually happening on the island.  New York Representative Nydia Velazquez has called on Congress to create an independent commission to investigate the true mortality rate and hurricane responsiveness and preparation so that the painfully slow response and recovery does not happen again. NY heavyweights like NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo and NY Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, in a pre-parade breakfast, supported the creation of the commission. Meanwhile, there are about 11,000 homes in Puerto Rico still without power and it might take another two months for full restoration, that is, if another hurricane doesn’t hit by then. This is unacceptable and part of that frustration was clearly visible by both the marchers and parade viewers.  As usual, the mounted police signaled the start of the parade with much excitement and lots of noise from the crowd to get things started.

IMG_6963

A Call For Accountability

IMG_7257

Grand Marshall Esai Morales

IMG_7397

Radio Personalities Lulu and Lala

 

     The NYPD Marching Band got things kicked off soon followed by parade dignitaries and politicians letting the crowd know they were there to help push the recovery effort. The parade was also a big chance to honor all the first responders that volunteered their time to help in a time of need. Nurses, firefighters, energy repair technicians, truck drivers all had a hand in the initial phase of the recovery. But more needs to be done. NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo got the most love from the crowd since he has been a champion for the disaster relief effort since the beginning. Both NY State and City had sent trucks and personnel to restore power to thousands of homes and help in the clean-up effort.  But there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. After the politicians left, then the party started. The first of the music floats to arrive were The Jara from the NYPD Hispanic Society. Each year, the various pueblos in PR send their representatives to march. Although the headcount was down for obvious reasons, Morovis and Salinas had the biggest groups and were shown much love by the crowd.

IMG_7270

What A Beautiful Flag!!

IMG_7390

Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Posada

IMG_7541

Representing the Heroes

 

     Honorees of the parade rolled down in convertible cars with the crowd cheering them on and taking plenty of pictures.  Leading the way was Grand Marshall Esai Morales, leading man in several movie and TV hits like Chicago PD and La Bamba. He has helped breakdown stereotypes of Hispanic roles throughout the years.  Soon after came former Miss Universe 2006, Zuleyka Rivera, Queen of the Parade.   Famed news reporter, David Begnaud, was also honored for his outstanding reporting on the island after Hurricane Maria’s aftermath.  Lawyer and TV personality from The View, Sunny Hostin, got her dream come true to be honored as  an Ambassador. My personal favorite honoree, former NY Yankee catcher Jorge Posada and his wife were honored for their work in helping cure a disease their son was afflicted with.  Local radio stations were all present, both English and Spanish with KTU twin hosts Lulu and Lala making the biggest splash. Puerto Ricans love their music and dance. Many dance groups show up to show off their moves. One group that stood out was a small but energetic group dancing to a parade favorite song…Que Bonita Bandera (Such a Beautiful Flag).

IMG_7304

A Rallying Cry for those Lost

IMG_7829

Beauty Queen Enjoying the Parade

IMG_7959

Costumes of Vejigantes

 

     Every now and then we get a special treat and this parade was no exception. A float with Tito Puente Jr. arrived led by the Eddie Torres Jr. dance group.  Both were on their A game and showed the crowd the beauty of and fun of music and dance done the Puerto Rican way ..con mucho sabor…(done in great taste and style). Both men carried on the torches of their legendary fathers in their way. That truly was one of the best highlights of the parade. A perennial favorite is the NYS Nurses Associations float with their live band and sizzling singer. They always get the crowd worked up. As a change of pace to the usual blaring brass and rhythmic drum beats was a tribute to the most romantic music. The Tuna Mayaguenzana float had a dozen singers reminiscing of the beauty of the island through Boleros.   That was a nice treat especially for the older folks that heard that music growing up on the island. Another crowd favorite is the Taino Towers float from El Barrio in Spanish Harlem. This year, they made their own version of the Santana hit Maria,Maria.  The lower East Side of NYC is home to a group of Puerto Ricans from Loiza and their group came to represent with a colorful float and fun dancers and drummers.  They were a lot of fun and played to the crowd well.  One of the best dance groups of the parade is XDance. The crowd always gives them much love for the great choreography and dance costumes.

IMG_7690 - Copy

Working The Crowd

IMG_8281

XDance Having Fun

IMG_7873

Resistance Moving Forward

 

     In between all the fun dance floats were reminders of the suffering of the devastation and the slow response to the disaster of Hurricane Maria.  It was also a call for action to help continue the efforts to support the people of Puerto Rico by doing anything you can. Joining a group, or volunteer your time in an effort to help our fellow Americans. Even contacting your local representatives to apply more pressure for help to Puerto Rico. This is not an issue that can be forgotten or swept under the rug because  another topic made it to the news cycle. As the parade winded down, it made me proud to be a native New Yorker and even more proud to have a strong heritage that will not allow obstacles whether natural or man-made get in the way. Yo Soy Boricua Pa Que Tu Lo Sepa!!

 

IMG_7537

See You Next Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: