A sea of red, white and blue flags hovered above thousands of people’s heads during the Puerto Rican Parade. The joyful yells and laughter, mixed with salsa beats, could be heard from miles away. All kinds of floats emitted music and strode through the streets of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
The National Puerto Rican Day Parade usually kicks off the beginning of summer for New York City. After some rising worries and revelations of mishandled finances, a new board took over the event leading to a more serious undertone.
Since 1958, this celebration of culture has generated up to 2 million spectators, and began as a way to encourage pride amongst people that found themselves deprecated. The Parade has always focused on promoting health, yet, this new board approved of a celebratory can of Coors Light Beer decorated with the Puerto Rican flag. Community activists and elected officials found this image insulting and offensive. The image was found to be inconclusive with the parade’s focal point.
One of the grand marshals leading the parade was Melissa Mark-Viverito, the first Puerto Rican born to hold a city-wide elected office. “One: The community is celebrating my accomplishing being the speaker of the City Council — it’s a great recognition for the community overall. And two: We’ve taken this parade back to its roots,” said Mark-Viverto.
Throughout the parade, Puerto Ricans were ecstatic about the communities political ascent. “We finally got a boricua, and a female,” said Maria Lopez, a parade goer.
Even with the idea that the parade had been seen as a commercial spectacle, not everyone felt that way. For most, the parade was just like it has always been, a social gathering of culture and celebration.