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Sizzling Heat Doesn’t Stop Colombians from Celebrating

27 Jul

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The heatwave that’s had much of the Northeast searching for relief didn’t stop the Colombians from celebrating their independence from Spain. Much of the crowd donned their bright yellow shirts in support of their beloved native land. The yellow is part of the three colors of the Colombian flag..yellow for the vast amount of sunshine and gold found in the land, blue for the beautiful ocean coastline and red for the blood that was shed to have their independence. Neighborhood parades are fun to go to especially all the great food you can find along Northern Blvd in the melting pot of  Jackson Heights in Queens. Kicking off the parade were the youth cadets in their snazzy white uniforms. Soon Queens Borough President Melinda Katz made her way up the parade route. Several honored guests saluted the thousands of revelers up and down Northern Blvd. One float with the best representation of Colombian culture was the food giant Goya float and their hot band. They reallyt got the crowd worked up. Many community groups had their representatives there to show their support for the new parade organizers. This years parade was shorter than previous years but it was still fun and there was plenty of dancing in the streets.

A March to End the Madness

22 May

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Although this blog is dedicated to the celebration of life through parades in NYC, the greatest city in the world, it also takes time out to raise awareness of some serious matters that effect us all. There’s nothing more that impacts our daily life than the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. And pretty much most people know they need to eat good clean healthy foods to live a good healthy life. The issue comes when we don’t know how that food product was made. Hundreds of people united this past Saturday in a March Against Monsanto in part of a worldwide effort to gather support to have all foods labeled that have used GMOs in its production. The GMO debate has gone on for decades but it’s coming under more scrutiny especially that more legislation is aimed at preventing states from labeling food products that have GMOs. Just what is Monsanto hiding by trying to force these laws on states? The giant biotech company also produces the number one selling pesticide in the country, Roundup. More and more research is coming to light about the destructive impact on our environment and how its seeping into our food supply. The March also brought to light just how unfair farmers are treated when dealing with Monsanto. The good thing about this March is how many young people got involved to protest and bring awareness to just what is going into the foods we eat.  Monsanto is making more efforts to make it harder for organic farmers to produce more healthier foods and leave us with fewer choices to eat good quality foods. It’s up to us to make the right choices everyday in the foods we select. It wasn’t too long ago, that having a meal was a celebration of life. The foods we eat become a part of us. I know I want to know what’s going in my body because it could make me sick. And watching the high energy of the marchers, these angels are pushing for labeling laws that would make a difference to both you and me.

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For more information about Monsanto and its tactics, please view these fine documentaries:

The World According to Monsanto.

Seeds of Death

Food Inc.

 

Dressed to the Nines at the Easter Promenade

28 Mar

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A NYC tradition that has lasted well over 100 years occurs every Easter just passed noon. This is when NYers  wear their most creative Easter bonnet or dress up as though they were time travelers from the Gilded Age of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers walking up 5th Ave. wearing there best attire. Some folks celebrated Easter services at St. Patrick’s Cathedral or some of the other churches on 5th Ave. between 56th and 48th Sts. and then took to the streets to marvel at the creativity NYers have. It’s not really a parade but more of a promenade for the 1%ers and those that really want to look like them even if it’s just for a day.  It was a fun time and must see after Easter brunch.

 

Latin Unity Abound on 5th Ave. at the Hispanic Day Parade

15 Oct
Flags of Nations Displayed

Flags of Nations Displayed

For the last 51 years, the day before Columbus Day is celebrated by millions of fans coming out to the parade route on 5th Ave. to celebrate Hispanic culture in dance and music and costume. As the end of Hispanic Heritage Month comes closer, the parade showcases all the different cultures and their similarities. From the gauchos of Argentina and Chile to the diablos of Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to the hot dancers from Colombia and Panama…all came to show their talents and national pride. All Latinos speak Spanish but like here in the States there are accents and dialects of the same language. Kicking off the parade were junior cadets holding flags of all the Hispanic nations. The first of 18 nations represented in the parade was the group from Spain, as that’s who financed Columbus’ voyage to the Western hemisphere.  A group of lady flamenco dancers displayed their slow sensual moves to the cheering crowd. They were soon followed by the winner of this years Miss Universe pageant, Miss Colombia Paulina Vega and the 1st prize winner of the folkloric dance competition from Peru, Fuerza Peruana.  They were just warming things up for what would be a display of celebration and unity among Latinos.

Miss Universe Paulina Vega

Miss Universe Paulina Vega

Flamenco Dancers From Spain

Flamenco Dancers From Spain

Bolivian Dancer in Training

Bolivian Dancer in Training

The flow of the parade goes alphabetically with Argentina and their gauchos and tango dancers leading things off. Then one of the largest and most colorful groups from Bolivia showed the diversity of their culture with the San Simon Caporales dancing their energetic dance. The Indian Tinkus and the Morenales also made their way up the parade route on 5th Ave from 44th to 68th Sts. Colombia got into the mix with their colorful costumes and even had some impressive youthful dancers show off their moves. Costa Rica had some really tall stilt walkers and Cuba had a Celia Cruz wannabe. Azucar. The diablos from the Dominican Republic cracked their whips and got the crowd worked up. Ecuador had a decent representation with some good folkloric dancers having fun. El Salvador had an impressive marching band. Guatemala has always been the most environmentally conscience of the nations. Honduras got into the mix with a lively float. Mexico had a nice variety of dancers with traditional costumes but the crowd favorite has always been the super hyper chinelos in their amazing costumes. Nicaragua had a larger group than last year but still could use a boost.

Bolivian Pasion

Bolivian Pasion

Dominican Diablos

Dominican Diablos

Panamanian Queen

Panamanian Queen

Last years winner of the coveted Hispanic Culture Award presented by Macy’s for the group that best represents Latin culture and pride was Panama and they surely went all out to retain their crown. They had some of the most impressive floats and marching bands from both Panama and Brooklyn. Probably the highlight of that group were the High School marching band from San Vicente de Paul. and Manual Maria Tejada Roca MB. They were amazing and could give any US HS marching band a run for the money. Peru brought their better dancers to show off some moves. Puerto Rico sent a Marc Anthony wannabe. They definitely need to step up their game especially since their are so many Puerto Ricans living in the city. Hello. Paraguay got into the mix with their balancing bottles act. Closing out the parade were the scantily clad ladies from Uruguay with their drummers keeping the pace moving. Venezuela had a better group than last year and were more environmentally friendly. Each year the parade gets better and close to a million people came out to support the Hispanic culture and contribution to this great city.

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So long my Queen. See you next year.

So long my Queen. See you next year.

Harlem Brings Out the Best For A Day of Celebration

24 Sep
Egyptian Royalty

Egyptian Royalty

The last weekend of one of the hottest summers in the city closed out with a festive celebration of African American culture and contribution in Harlem USA. Billed as the largest Black Parade in the Nation, it certainly lived up to the hype. It’s also becoming one of the longest parades rivaling St. Patrick’s, the Puerto Rican, and West Indian parades. It’s becoming larger with groups coming in from 12 states and more community groups getting involved. One thing was clearly evident in the grand celebration of the 46th annual event…everyone brought their A game to the parade. Starting with the lead marching band from Lincoln University of Pennsylvania as they set the tone for what would be a day of fun, sharing knowledge, activism, music and some great steppers. After parade dignitaries and VIPs made their way to the reviewing stand on 125th St and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., current and former politicians including former Mayor Dinkins and Rep. Charles Rangel drove up the parade route. Mayor de Blasio was well received mostly because of his effort to increase affordable housing and push for income equality…issues that have impacted the African American community deeply. Activists and community groups were in abundance as recent events directed against defenseless African Americans by police has galvanized the community to help bring about change. The Black Lives Matter group had gathered a large presence for this years parade and news of upcoming activist events and protests were let known. Sorority groups displayed posters proclaiming their allegiance with Sandra Bland.  An Islam group sponsored by Majid Malcom Shabbaz had a few floats with large images of iconic figures that gave selflessly in the struggle for freedom and equality. They also had a funk band that played some hot tunes from the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. They got the crowd worked up.

Icons of the Community

Icons of the Community

Marching Cobras Show How It's Done

Marching Cobras Show How It’s Done

Marcher In Training

Marcher In Training

One of the many marching bands to march up the parade route were the newcomers from Milford Mills in Baltimore, Md. They were sharp with their green uniforms and lots of high energy. The first of the many marching units from Baltimore brought their style to the parade. The Christian Warriors thrilled the crowd with their moves. They were just warming things up for some of the larger marching units including the striking local Marching Cobras. One group that made the biggest impression was a large group representing the United Nuwaupian Nation, an ancient Egyptian order based in Brooklyn. They dressed in traditional costume and presented a traditional dance at the reviewing stand. Soon after several marching units from Baltimore tore it up with their high stepping and loud drums. Dream Nation got things moving with their high energy. The Baltimore Entertainers followed up with their own style but not far behind was the sassy Baltimore All-Stars. Near the close of the parade was the Baltimore Go-Getters and that they did with one the more impressive shows for the crowd to really get into. It was a great time for anyone to come up to Harlem and celebrate in grand style.

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Dominican Diablos Crack the Whips on 6th Ave.

11 Aug

Diablos Plotting The blazing hot weather invited thousands of Dominicans to come out to 6th Ave. to celebrate their culture, music, costume, and contribution to the fabric of NYC. The 34th version of the sizzling parade was not without controversy though. After parade VIPs and delegates from the Dominican Republic ushered in the start of the parade, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was cheered with a loud welcome. Following the Governor was his rival of late, NYC Mayor DeBlasio. He was not welcomed as much. Mostly for his comments on the recent decision by the Dominican government to begin the expulsion of Haitians even if the illegal immigrant has been there for many generations. Mayor DeBlasio denounced the decision as “immoral” and “racially motivated”.  Dominicans tend to follow government policies as something personal. If you criticize the government you are criticizing them. DeBlasio was attempting to maintain a balancing act as there are also many Haitian voters living in the city. After the booing faded the fun began when a group of merengue dancers made their way up the parade route from 38th to 52nd Sts. A crowd favorite of masked devils cracking whips really got the crowd worked up.

Folkloric Dancers

Folkloric Dancers

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Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez

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A few Dominican born celebrities had some fun taking selfies. The two Parade Marshalls really got the most ovation. Recent MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez was loving all the Pedro chants. Even I got in on it..a devout Yankee fan that I am chanted Pedro a few times. No worries. I drove right by Yankee Stadium later on just to get grounded again…whew. Musical giant Johnny Ventura was on another float blaring some of his biggest hits. Many more diablos marched up the parade route getting lots of hugs from revelers. The Goya float had a great band playing typical music of the Dominican Republic. The crowd went nuts for one group that had the best float in the parade. It was great to see smiles galore and traditions passed on from one generation to the next.

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Mi Patria

Mi Patria

A Sea of Blue Shine for the Greeks on 5th Ave.

31 Mar
Folkloric Greek marchers

Folkloric Greek marchers

Early spring still had a chill in the air but that didn’t stop the thousands of revelers from lining 5th Ave. from 63rd to 79th Sts. to celebrate the 194th anniversary of Greek Independence from Ottoman rule. It was a festive occasion although it was not without incident. As with most major parades, the mounted police signal the start of the parade. Nearby the reviewing stand near 68th st., a mounted police officer was thrown from his horse when it got spooked by some loud music. The officer was writhing in pain in his leg. The incident caused a delay in the start of the parade. Once word got out that an officer was injured in the line of duty, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio rushed to the aid of the officer as he was being hoisted into an ambulance and rushed to Bellevue Hospital. Once the incident was under control, the parade kicked off much to the delight of the anxious crowd.

Hostess of the Broadcast

Hostess of the Broadcast

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Cuomo and DeBlasio checking in on wounded officer

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Presidential Guard..Evzones

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A Sea of Blue on 5th Ave.

Grand Marshalls NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, John Calamos, and John and Helen Psaras made their way up the parade route. They were soon followed by representatives from Greece including the Greek Defense Minister. Greeks are a deeply religious people and have a great reverence to His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America. But what everyone was looking forward to was the perennial favorite, the Presidential Guard of the Republic of Greece, Evzones, marching with their signature steps. The crowd went nuts when they marched by. Several youth groups from Universities from Greece marched behind the Evzones. This was the first year several groups imitating the Presidential Guard participated in the parade. A group that always gets loud cheers are the Greek Folkloric group with their traditional costumes and the mighty Greek Warriors with their authentic Spartan warrior attire. They were placed strategically to protect the Greek Independence beauty queen float. The parade was broadcast locally on MY9 and internationally back to Greece.

Ernie Anastos broadcasting on MY9

Ernie Anastos broadcasting on MY9

Folkloric costume

Folkloric costume

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Cyprus Protesters

Groups from Cyprus marched by with banners protesting the Turkish occupation of their land. Other floats showed off the Greek contributions to civilization like democracy and a tribute to the famous painter “El Greco”. One marching band that looked like they were having fun were the Superior Sound Marching Band. Greek Orthodox Churches from the tri-state area sent representatives to march. It was great to see revelers cheer on their fellow church members. This was a fun parade with lots of traditional costumes.

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Great to be Greek for a day.

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