Tag Archives: nydia velazquez

Dragons Fire Up the Lunar New Year Parade In Chinatown

18 Feb
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Double Dragons Lead the Way

      The grand finale of the 15 day Lunar New Year celebration was well under way on Mott St. in the heart of Chinatown. A stage was set up on Hester and Mott Sts. to proclaim the importance of the holiday to VIPs, politicians, and dignitaries. US Senator Chuck Schumer , US Representative Nydia Velazquez and NY State Senator John Liu were among those present to help celebrate the occasion.  Parade founder, Steven Tin, of Better Chinatown, did a great job in keeping the pre-parade festivities going. The most anticipated part is when lettuce heads are dangled from long wooden poles and the dancing lions shred the leaves and toss them to the crowd for prosperity.  It was a great tradition to see well and alive in Chinatown.

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Dancing Lions Greeting the Crowd

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Staten Island Lions Leading the Way

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Dragon Leader Weaving His Way

     As usual the mounted police signals the start of the parade with the NYPD marching band shortly behind. For some reason there were more dragons than in previous years and the crowd just loved it. A perennial favorite, Staten Island Lions, brought their dancing lions and got the crowd worked up for a day of fun and tradition. The all-female drum band, Fogo Azul, really had a great time. One of the largest groups, World Journal, is known for their huge double dragons was making their way up the parade route.

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Tilted Dragon Going For A Spin

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Prosperity Is In Your Future

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Buddha Leading the Lion

     Local community groups with  colorful costumes and artistic work made their way up the parade route. Families with children from China and the DeSoto Public school had great costumes and kids enjoying the passing of tradition. It was a successful parade with big crowds and lots of dragons and dancing lions. Marchers ended the parade at Roosevelt Park where more events kept the festivities going. The parade celebrated its 20th year and keeps growing each year. Once the parade was over, I made my way to my to Wo Hop, my favorite restaurant on Mott St.

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Puerto Ricans Turn Celebration Into Remembrance

11 Jun
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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.

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A Call For Accountability

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Grand Marshall Esai Morales

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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.

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What A Beautiful Flag!!

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Mr. and Mrs. Jorge Posada

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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).

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A Rallying Cry for those Lost

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Beauty Queen Enjoying the Parade

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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.

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Working The Crowd

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XDance Having Fun

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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!!

 

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See You Next Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

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