Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood to expand horizons

Arianna Nazario, 9, of Massapequa, at the annual Arianna Nazario, 9, of Massapequa, at the annual Brentwood Puerto Rican parade in Brentwood on June 23, 2013. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Organizers of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood say their annual celebration of cultural heritage is expanding this year to highlight the art and history of Latinos in the region.

The nonprofit Teatro Yerbabruja struggled earlier this year to secure more than $30,000 for the event from the Suffolk County Legislature, over questions about its administrative costs and management.

But the group cured those troubles by amending tax filings to show most of the grant money is used in organizing the annual parade, scheduled for the first Sunday in June.

The group plans to kick off activities with a monthlong exhibit of paintings centered on Puerto Rican themes to go on display on May 1 at the Central Islip Public Library.

It will be followed by a night of lecture and discussions on the history of Puerto Ricans in Brentwood, starting at 7 p.m. on May 28 at Brentwood Public Library.

In future years, those events will focus on other Latino groups, organizers said.

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The day before the parade, starting at noon on May 31, the group plans to close several streets surrounding Suffolk Avenue and Brentwood Road to host its first salsa music festival. It will be headlined by Tito Puente Jr., son of the late Puerto Rican mambo star.

Festivities are to conclude with the 48th year of the parade, which attracts tens of thousands to the hamlet's 5th Avenue, starting at noon on June 1. More than 60 groups are expected to march this year, said Teatro Yerbabruja's artistic director Margarita Espada.

"What's really important to us is that we are not just having a parade," said Espada, "but events to unite the community and make the best of the opportunity to educate and bring more people to our side, including from the community at large."

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