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Thousands line Brentwood's Fifth Avenue for LI's Puerto Rican Hispanic Day parade

People wave flags in celebration at the 49th

People wave flags in celebration at the 49th annual Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade, on June 7, 2015, in Brentwood. Credit: Heather Walsh

Nathanael De Hoyos grew up just a block away from the route of Long Island's annual Puerto Rican Hispanic Day parade and he and his family never missed the festivities.

Sunday, De Hoyos, 35, continued that tradition, bringing his wife and 6-year-old daughter, Genesis.

"Every year that she grows up, she'll remember this -- what we're all about," said De Hoyos, who is Puerto Rican and Salvadoran. "These are her roots."

De Hoyos, a Brentwood native, was among thousands of spectators who lined Fifth Avenue in his hometown, as some 3,000 people marched in the 49th annual Latin American cultural celebration.

Parade organizers estimated that tens of thousands watched the procession, including some former residents who organizers said flew back to enjoy the festivities.

Young children twirled batons as marchers and spectators danced in the streets and on sidewalks.

"It's the pride of the community," said Margarita Espada, founder and artistic director of Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja, the Central Islip-based nonprofit that organized the parade.

Marchers and spectators waved flags of their native countries or draped the flags over their bodies.

"I feel proud to be Latino," said Alberty Mateo, 44, a native of the Dominican Republic who carried a small flag. "My community is working hard to get the American dream."

His son, Juliany, 11, carried a larger Dominican Republic flag and daughter, Stephanie, 10, carried an American flag as they marched with Adelante of Suffolk County, a social services agency.

Adelante's director, Olga El Sehamy, who also marched with miniature Mexican and American flags, said the parade showcases the many Latino communities in the Brentwood area.

"We all come out on this one day and show that we are unified," said El Sehamy, whose organization provides services such as after-school homework assistance and help with college applications.

This year's parade was dedicated to the memory of Pauline Velazquez, a parade co-founder who died last year. The theme, Espada, 49, said, was that youth are our future.

"It's very important to train new generations to understand who they are, be proud of their identity and their Latino roots," said Espada, a theater lecturer at Stony Brook University.

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