“United More than Ever” is the theme of The 51st Puerto Rican / Hispanic Day Parade, which steps off in Brentwood at noon Sunday, June 4 in a celebration of Long Island’s increasingly diverse Latin-American cultures.
“We’re coming together during a time of crisis,” organizer Margarita Espada, executive director of Central Islip’s Teatro Yerbabruja Arts Center, says of the parade. This year’s edition is expected to sound a somber note amid the celebration as tens of thousands of spectators watch in the heart of the Island’s traditionally Latino community.
Some members of the 70 participating organizations, which include students and teachers from Brentwood High School, will wear yellow ribbons to memorialize local victims of gang-violence, Espada says.
Originally called the Puerto Rican Day parade when it first stepped off in the mid-1960s, the name and the focus have changed in recent years. Now, the celebration includes recent immigrants and longtime residents whose heritage is from Central and South America and other Spanish-speaking nations.
“Brentwood is a very culturally rich community,” Espada says.
Marchers are encouraged to wear traditional costumes and wave flags from El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, the Dominican Republic and other nations.
Acknowledging that growing diversity, this year’s parade grand marshal is Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). Martinez is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and immigrated here at age 3 in 1980, when her parents fled El Salvador’s civil war.
“One thing I love about this country is the diversity, and the parade encompasses that. It encompasses all of us, it brings us together,” says Martinez, whose district includes Brentwood, Bay Shore and Central Islip.
DANCING IN THE STREETS
Dance groups and salsa bands will be among the performers marching or riding on floats. A company of 45 dancers aged 10 to 18 from Brentwood’s El Teatro Rodante Hispanico dance school will be doing salsa moves to recorded songs by artists such as Marc Anthony and Cuban artist Celia Cruz, says Noemi Robinson, the group’s director.
Another Long Island-based group, La Elegancia de la Salsa, will perform on Teatro Yerbabruja’s float.
“We play all the salsa classics,” says Raul Berrios of Brentwood, owner-promoter of the nine-member band of Long Islanders playing the trumpet, trombone and traditional instruments, such as the conga, bongo and timbal drum.
Businesses along the parade route will serve empanadas, pernil (slow-roasted marinated pork shoulder) and mofongo plantain balls, Espada says. Pollo Campero, the international restaurant chain with a location on the parade route, is expected to sell its popular chicken dishes from a stand in the parking lot.
51st Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade
WHEN | WHERE Noon Sunday, June 4 at Fifth Industrial Court, Bayshore and up Fifth Avenue to Third Avenue, Brentwood
INFO 631-626-3603, teatroyerbabruja.org
Brentwood Salsa and Arts Festival
WHEN | WHERE 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, June 3 at Suffolk Avenue and Brentwood Road, Brentwood
INFO 631-559-5045, brentwoodlitropicalsalsafest.com
If you want total weekend immersion in Long Island’s Latino culture, take your maracas and folding chair to the fourth annual Brentwood Salsa and Arts Festival.
Part street festival with games, and part music festival, the event features six salsa bands and three dance groups performing on stage, says festival organizer Sammy Gonzalez Jr., of Brentwood. The main artist, Hector Tricoche, is a vocalist who is an international Latin pop and salsa artist.
Gonzalez says that last year 5,000 people attended. “People bring their congas, maracas, güiros,” he says, and play along with the bands.