By Caroline Spivack
Talk about a celebración!
Brooklyn Boricuas celebrated their island roots at the Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11. The Caribbean celebration reached its three-year milestone — after a 20-year drought of processions without permits — with a watershed moment for the borough’s Puerto Rican community, said one parade volunteer.
“It’s definitely legitimizing to the Puerto Ricans in the community and unites our community,” said Junior Allende, the neighborhood flag fanatic who peppered his flag installation inside Sunset Park with Puerto Rican ensigns to mark the day.
“The whole avenue was full of red, white, and blue flags. It was beautiful to see that star — a beautiful day.”
But among the vibrant colors at this year’s Fifth Avenue march were black and white flags to show support for the island’s dire financial straits.
“It’s really hurtful to know that the people in our origin are suffering and we wanted to show solidarity all the way from Sunset Park, all the way from Brooklyn with the flags,” said Allende.
Drummers with Afro-Puerto Rican percussion groups lead the parade along the thoroughfare — pounding their traditional bomba y plena beats and setting a vivacious tone for the parade. Scores of classic cars and low-riders tricked out with hydraulic suspensions bopped down the main drag. And the neighborhood was a veritable flood of locals draped in red, white, and blue, and traditional Taíno Indian garb.
Some proud Puerto Ricans even trekked from across the borough to partake in the festivities and celebrate their heritage.
“We came all the way from Coney Island to be a part of the parade,” said Maria Roman, who joined in the procession with her husband and two daughters. “I felt it was important to be there because I want our kids to know our heritage and known our culture. I think it helped connect people from our culture.”
In fact, the parade worked to unite Sunset Park and the borough as a whole with locals from a variety of cultures coming out to show their love for their Boricua neighbors, said Allende.
“A lot of people who weren’t Puerto Rican joined with us — Mexican, Colombian, Trinidadian, Chinese — all waving our flag,” he said. “That was amazing because that’s what it’s really all about — uniting everyone.”
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