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Puerto Rican Day/Hispanic Day Parade Sunday in Brentwood

Members of the Puerto Rican Coalition carry the

Members of the Puerto Rican Coalition carry the Puerto Rican flag along Fifth Avenue during the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood on Sunday, June 5, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Tens of thousands are expected to march and celebrate their heritage Sunday in Brentwood at the 51st Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade, an event that organizers say will energize and help unite the community.

More than 60 groups and about 3,000 people have signed on to march up the hamlet’s Fifth Avenue, with up to 50,000 spectators anticipated to gather in a community with one of the largest concentrations of Latinos on Long Island.

“People are super excited and there are many new groups that will participate” this year, said Margarita Espada, founder of the Teatro Yerbabruja nonprofit that runs the event.

The parade comes as the community struggles with a recent spate of gang violence, a disturbing series of attacks that have cast the area in the worst possible light, Espada said.

“As a community we have had a crisis with this gang issue . . . and the parade symbolizes a moment of celebration, of coming back together and uniting without political or group divisions,” she said.

This will be a chance to highlight all that’s good about Brentwood, she said.

And, as usual, the festivities will feature salsa music, dancing in the streets, and the showcasing of community’s civic groups — this year under the slogan “United More than Ever.”

The parade will start at noon from the intersection of Fifth Avenue and the Southern State Parkway in North Bay Shore. Marchers will proceed north along the avenue for nearly two miles, into Brentwood and up to the road’s intersection with Third Avenue. The event is scheduled to end at 2:30 p.m.

This event has been insulated from controversy around New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, a large cultural celebration slated for June 11 that’s lost sponsors and support from politicians because of its intention to honor Oscar López Rivera, a nationalist who once favored armed struggle for the independence of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since 1898 that has functioned as a commonwealth since 1952.

López Rivera, 74, was freed this year by President Barack Obama after 35 years in prison because of his involvement with The Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN, a group linked to bombings in the United States and Puerto Rico, including a 1975 blast that killed four people in Manhattan’s Fraunces Tavern.

Some see him as an icon in Puerto Rico’s self-determination struggle, while others consider him a terrorist even though he wasn’t convicted of the bombings.

In a statement issued Thursday, the New York City parade’s board of directors said that López Rivera would march, not as “national freedom hero” — the designation to be bestowed on him — “but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.”

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