Bay Shore’s Fifth Avenue was a sea of blue and white Sunday afternoon as about 1,000 people gathered to celebrate Central American Independence Day, many clad in the colors of the Salvadoran flag.
The 13th annual parade on Long Island commemorated the day in 1821 that five Central American nations — El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica — gained independence from Spain.
The parade’s crowd was smaller than that of previous years, when attendance numbered more than 10,000, but the atmosphere was jubilant, with festive music, multiple floats decked out with glittering streamers, and performances from traditional folk dancers clad in brightly colored tiered dresses.
“The Star-Spangled Banner,” played, followed by the anthems of all countries represented in Central American Independence Day. With most of the crowd hailing from El Salvador, many people enthusiastically sang the “Himno Nacional de El Salvador,” the country’s anthem.
Jorge Guadron, president of the Bay Shore-based Salvadoran American Chamber of Commerce, said the day was about “preserving the culture” of Central American countries and also about conveying “the trust and faith we have in this country [U.S.].”
“In a way, we are celebrating America, because the U.S. is a melting pot,” said Guadron, of Islip. “It’s an opportunity to reflect on how this country and other cultures see us as enemies when we are not.”
Salvadorans represent the largest minority group on Long Island, with more than 110,000 Salvadorans living in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
The day was about fostering community, said Harold Guzman, 30, of Central Islip.
“We know each other, we came from the same country,” Guzman said.
Fernando Rivera of Bay Shore came to the parade with his two young daughters, Leticia, 10, and Danaya, 5, to celebrate the day, which he said was a “way to keep our people together.”
Local politicians and community leaders, including Suffolk County Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) and Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, addressed the crowd, most delivering speeches in Spanish. Real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff served as grand marshal for the parade, which he called a “great honor.”
One group marching for the National TPS Alliance sought to bring attention to the upcoming expiration of temporary protected status granting eligible residents from multiple countries, including El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, the right to live and work in the United States. El Salvador’s TPS expires in March.
“We are not here just to take, like the government is telling everybody. We are here to do things the right way,” said Cecilia Martinez, 35, of Bay Shore. “We are just asking for an opportunity to stay longer and work for our families.”