Huge crowds cheered and danced at the 62nd annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan on Sunday, expressing pride in the island’s culture and music, and venting frustration over the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria nearly two years after the devastating storm.
Thousands of people lined Fifth Avenue as marching bands and floats made their way from 43rd Street to 79th Street, passing iconic New York locations such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, and organizers said they expected as many as 2 million spectators. Many in the crowd waved Puerto Rican flags and wore T-shirts and hats celebrating their culture.
Esther Rivera of West Hempstead said the parade is a reminder of what Puerto Rico means to New York and the United States. “It’s great to honor everything we contributed to the U.S.,” she said.
Many, however, came to party as well as reflect on their heritage.
“I’m a Puerto Rican — no, a New Yorican — so I need to be here,” said Yvette Freita of Jamaica. “I like to meet new people, I like to hear the music, see the dancing. The New York parade is the biggest in the world, and that’s why it makes it so much fun.”
Singer Ricky Martin, the grand marshal, got the biggest cheers of the parade, and he returned the love by wading into the crowd to take selfies with his fans.
New York’s political stars came out, too, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, state Attorney General Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Rep. Nydia Velazquez. The elected official who got the biggest reaction was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old congresswoman who represents communities Queens and the Bronx. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, skipped this year’s parade to campaign in Iowa.
Cuomo announced he will travel to Puerto Rico to meet with hundreds of New York college students who have volunteered to help the battered island rebuild.
“Hurricane Maria was a double tragedy. It was a hurricane and then it was disrespect shown by the federal government that did not assist Puerto Rico the way it should have been, the way we’ve worked with other communities all across this country and across the world,” Cuomo said, echoing criticism that the Trump administration has dragged its feet in providing aid. “Because the federal government forgot an important fact, which is Puerto Ricans are American citizens, and what the federal government did was a disgrace.”
Maribel Dominguez of Worcester, Massachusetts, said the parade symbolizes the pride and community that will help the island move past the destruction left by Maria.
“This is about how Puerto Rico will lift itself up again,” said Dominguez, who attended the parade with the advocacy group Amor Para Puerto Rico. “It’s been two years since the hurricane, but we are still working on that.”
NYPD officers lined the route, but there were no apparent tensions in the crowd, and police said there were no arrests or incidents related to the parade.
With Ivan Pereira