Puerto Rican Pride Blossoms on Fifth Avenue

By Brendon Fallon, Epoch Times

NEW YORK—Fifth Avenue erupted with striking Latino colors and rhythms for the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Sunday morning.

Hundreds of thousands of marchers and onlookers packed the avenue on a warm sunny day. The theme of this year’s parade was One Nation, Many Voices.

A vibrant procession of floats, marching bands, and glamorously clad women positioned like prom queens on the backs of eye-catching vehicles made its way from 44th Street to 79th Street.

Mayor Bill de Blasio led the parade for the first time. He was joined by the two grand marshals— City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez—as well as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and other officials.

“It’s a day of the year when everyone becomes Puerto Rican,” said Andres Gonzalez, a Puerto Rican-born chief diversity officer at Massachusetts State Health and a father of four. “We live in Connecticut; we come here every year.”

Gonzalez spent the day enjoying the musical talent of many renowned Puerto Rican musicians, particularly, salsa artist Ismael Miranda. He said that coming to the United States in 1987 had created many great opportunities:

“It has allowed me to leverage my language and culture while adding value to the United States,” he said.

Proudly an American citizen, Gonzalez still keeps his Puerto Rican “culture and heritage very much alive at home.” His older sons are both able to speak Spanish.

This year’s parade emerges from amid a haze of controversy surrounding its recently replaced administrative body. The previous board of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. was dismissed after the state attorney general found the event’s promoter and his company had misappropriated $1 million. They had also used airline vouchers contributed by parade sponsors, JetBlue and American Airlines for their personal benefit.

Puerto Rican employees of JetBlue marched Sunday behind their airline’s banner.

Vanessa Giusti, 32, joined on Sunday by her niece Rhianna Gonzalez, 15, has been coming to the parade since she was 14.

“We come for the food, the people and the atmosphere. The people are amazing. The women are beautiful,” Giusti said.

Giusti is American born; she is half Puerto Rican and half Italian. Giusti’s mother was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and came to the United States when she was 14. Gonzalez and her family also made their way to New York on the weekend from Connecticut. Giusti said that bringing her two children to the parade is part of connecting them to their Puerto Rican culture.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistook the city where Giusti’s mother was born. It was Ponce, Puerto Rico. Epoch Times regrets the error.