Tag Archives: puerto Rico

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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