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More Than A National Pride Parade



For Puerto Ricans nationwide, the 2018 National Puerto Rican Day Parade was much different than past times, as it stood for more than just national pride.

Less than a year after Puerto Rico was left in shambles by Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans awash in red, white, and blue, along with many other marchers and spectators alike, flooded through New York City’s Fifth Avenue to take part in the parade.

This year’s parade, the 61st of its kind, was one full of cheers, but also anger and mourning.

When Hurricane Maria hit the island territory on September 20th, 2017, the fragile infrastructure of the land was ravaged, officially leaving 64 people dead as a direct result of the storm, as well as an island-wide power outage with at least 9,000 people still left without electricity today. Schools and universities had also been forced to close down for extended periods of time as a result of the storm.

It was hard for many of the commonwealth’s residents to imagine how the catastrophic storm would later affect them during times typically full of joy, such as the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. This was the first time the annual parade was held since their native land was destroyed in a matter of 24 hours by Maria.

Luis Ballester, a Puerto Rican native whose family owns and operated the island’s largest provisional distributor, says that, to him,

“Since disaster hit the island with Maria, the Puerto Rican day parade is appreciated, but we have lost faith in its effectiveness to truly promote Puerto Rico.”

Participants in the parade this past Sunday, June 10th, marched the nearly 3-mile long route to the familiar sights and sounds of floats, marching bands, and booming festive music.

puerto rico parade

Source: Kowarski

However, there was a clear wave of frustration, sadness, and anger manifested in the crowd which stemmed from dissatisfaction with the lack of humanitarian aid relief sent to the recovering island, as well as with the lack of consistent media coverage following the tragic event.

“Puerto Rico needs huge physical humanitarian aid and more sufficient media coverage to rally Americans for the prosperity of the Puerto Rican people,” Ballester would later say. When asked what main accomplishments marchers and himself hope to get across and to see happen after this display, he stated,

“The increase in humanitarian is first. But more than that, Puerto Rico needs a legal restructuring. It needs the politics to change, and the umbrella of federal laws to change how the commonwealth gets treated because these federal laws still treat Puerto Rico like a colony.”

The clear sense of concern and urgency for those on the island was shown through marchers waving blacked-out Puerto Rican flags and signs with the number 4,645 on them, a rough estimate of the death toll caused directly and indirectly by the hurricane and its aftermath, according to data newly released by the Puerto Rican government.

Melisa Czeplowodzki, a Puerto Rican native studying in the U.S., who also housed a friend from her homeland during the weeks following the destruction, said that this year’s parade

“… was a chance for the Puerto Rican pride to shine. It really showed that despite all the catastrophe due to Maria, Puerto Ricans are more united than ever. We want to continue to celebrate our culture and roots. Blasting plena and bomba while waving our flags, we want everyone to know that we are here, we belong and we are proud to be both American and Puerto Rican.”

This vibrant celebration of heritage was one of bittersweet sentiment this year, as Puerto Rico continues to rebuild itself through the strength of its resilient people.

By: Mohamad Hashash

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