Puerto Rican Day Parade: A U.S. celebration of history, culture, and resilience

Bold Celebration Culture Inspired Heritage Pride Puerto Rican Day Parade Respect SMK3 SMK3 Apparel

Have you ever been in New York during the National Puerto Rican Day Parade to witness the sea of rippling red, white, and blue flags that come crashing down on a lavish stretch of Manhattan's Fifth Avenue every year on the second Sunday in June? Since 1958, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade has been the largest demonstration of cultural pride in the U.S. In its 63rd year, this historic celebration is engraved into the roots of New York culture, averaging 80,000 participants and over 3 million spectators annually. This year’s celebration was scheduled to be virtual, for the 2nd year, but proud Puerto Ricans still came out to share their heritage with grace and style!

National Puerto Rican Day ParadeNew York City, New York – 2013 National Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrated on the streets of Manhattan. Photo credit: Murat Kucukkarakasli

A Remarkable Celebration

During the parade, from 44th Street to 79th Street, all you see is thousands of marchers gathered from across the nation to show their colors, pride, and allyship.

Held in honor of the 3.5 million inhabitants of Puerto Rico and over 5 million people residing in the United States, the prime purpose of the Puerto Rican Day Parade is to promote culture, arts, and education. The celebration also pays tribute to prominent, historical figures.

FACT: The first-ever Puerto Rican Day Parade was held on Sunday, April 13, 1958, in Manhattan, supplanting the previous Hispanic Day Parade.

Every year, the parade hosts several cultural, educational, and social events throughout the city. Most celebrated is the Education Leadership Awards, Rising Stars Challenge, 152nd Street Cultural Festival, Annual Parade Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and the Gala Fundraiser Banquet. There are also campaigns to raise awareness of pressing issues in the community. 

National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Bomba DancerNew York City, New York – 2019 National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Bomba Dancer. Photo credit: Steve Sanchez

Puerto Rican Pride, Celebration & Solidarity

National Puerto Rican Day Parade is about preserving heritage while advancing the Puerto Rican community,  informing on important issues, and promoting educational achievement.

One aspect of the preservation of heritage that is important is the solidarity that Puerto Rican’s have with black people around the world and how they always showcase the traditional dance of Bomba, an Afro-Puerto Rican tradition of music and dance that represents resistance, survival, celebration, and healing. Bomba originates from the black slaves who worked on the sugar plantations in 17th century Puerto Rico. Today, Bomba has become an artistic and culturally meaningful form of protest and a symbol of pride.

Many view this annual Puerto Rican celebration as a time to step out and party in the streets, while others have no concept as to why this celebration is held in New York annually. At SMK3, we see it as a time to celebrate legacy and resilience. But also, as a reminder that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. That said, their fight is our fight!

Natural disasters have led many Puerto Ricans to leave the island for the mainland U.S. Even though the U.S. granted citizenship to the people of Puerto Rico in 1917, individuals on the island cannot vote in presidential or congressional elections in the U.S. At the same time, the U.S. territory is primarily governed by U.S. federal laws, which limit the power of the island’s government. So basically…the U.S. government dictates Puerto Rico’s structure and laws, but does not give Puerto Rican’s a voice, a position, or legs to fight for their own future.

Sadly, this is not the only problem that Puerto Rico faces as it seems these resilient islanders cannot catch a break. Every time they attempt to recover from one trauma, they are injected into new reality of trauma. After all, Puerto Rico is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria which devastated the U.S. territory in 2017, killing almost 3,000 people. To date, this is the deadliest U.S.-based natural disaster in 100 years. Since then, Puerto Rico has been slow to recover, dealing with more natural devastation while enduring the hardships of a global pandemic. All the while, receiving extraordinarily little economic support and stimulus from the U.S. government.

The Puerto Day Parade is not just a celebration, it is a day of remembrance and acknowledgment that the marathon continues. If you have not attended the Puerto Day Parade in New York – you should. The pride and fanfare are like no other. Equally important, you should take time to learn about the contributions that Puerto Rican’s have made to U.S. history. Like many other races of color in the U.S., the Puerto Rican story is omitted from schoolbooks, has untold history, and they are constantly overlooked.

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