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Puerto Rican Day Parade draws thousands

A spectator dresses up in costume for the

A spectator dresses up in costume for the 2013 Puerto Rican Day parade in Manhattan. (June 9, 2013) Credit: Emily Ngo

The massive annual celebration of Puerto Rican history and heritage along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue Sunday was set to the soundtrack of nonstop shouts of "Viva, Puerto Rico," booming salsa and reggaeton music, and blaring air horns.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade created a river of waving red, white and blue Puerto Rican flags from East 44th to East 79th streets. On the route were lavishly decorated floats and costumed dancers.

"There's a sense of pride in our roots, when you look at the history of what we've given to this country," said paradegoer Cesar Ortiz, 45, of East Harlem.

An NYPD spokeswoman said that as of Sunday evening, there had been no reports of violence, but about 15 arrests for minor violations.

The parade, which began in 1958, brought out politicians, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as mayoral hopefuls including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Joe Lhota.

"Just like we celebrate Columbus Day, St. Patrick's Day, Israel Independence Day, the Puerto Rican Day Parade symbolizes we all come from different places and New York makes us into Americans," Schumer said in an interview.

Brentwood resident Jezirae Rivera, 20, who rode on a float as a finalist in the National Puerto Rican Day Parade pageant, said the crowd was "amazing and loud, as always."

"We're just proud of our island, our culture, our people," said Rivera, a Suffolk County Community College student who has performed in the parade before. "The friendliness of the people and the natural beauty of the island, there's a lot to get out and celebrate."

Brooklyn couple Marco and Sylvia Torreblanca, originally from Mexico, said they love the city's diversity.

"Going to the Jamaican parade in Brooklyn or the Ecuadorean parade in Flushing, it's always an opportunity to experience other cultures," Marco Torreblanca, 45, said.

Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, running for mayor in a comeback attempt after a sexting scandal two years ago, shouted greetings in Spanish at the crowd.

"It's amazing," he said after he finished marching.

The event, one of the city's largest demonstrations of ethnic pride, is a celebration that has been marred by controversy. The state's attorney general is probing parade finances and the link between the nonprofit organization behind the festivities and Coors Light, which introduced commemorative beer cans adorned with the parade's name and a likeness of the Puerto Rican flag. MillerCoors said late last month that it would remove the cans from store shelves amid protests.

When asked about the controversies, several politicians and political hopefuls declined to comment.

Margarita Espada, 47, of Brentwood, director of its Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade, which steps off June 23, and who did not attend Sunday's parade, said she understood how the beer cans undermine "the positivity of the culture."

With Maria Alvarez

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