I’m headed out the door to go to the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Contrary to what you may, or may not, have heard, the parade isn’t a rape fest, or an organized crime spree. I had wanted to post a real history of the parade, how it started and why, and how it was really the efforts of a sole Puerto Rican woman, but I don’t have the time right now. The following was posted by a Boricua for the NY Post several years ago and it features the many high (and low) lights of what is still one of the largest (if not the largest) outdoor event in the U.S.
A little personal side note: one of my sister’s was a PR Parade Beauty queen (in the mid 70s).
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Unlikely to be fullfilled, Herman Roche
Courtesy of Walter Otero Gallery, Puerto Rico
-=[ Puerto Rican Parade ]=-
50 Greatest Moments
By Eneida del Valle
Last Updated: 5:00 AM, June 6, 2007 / Posted: 5:00 AM, June 6, 2007
From beauty queens who marched in heels to politicians who sported fake smiles to win some votes, to the controversial 'Seinfeld' episode, the Puerto Rican Parade has made Big Apple history for over half a century.
March 1958: Leaders from the Puerto Rican community decide to break away from the Hispanic Day Parade and create the Puerto Rican Day Parade. According to an editorial in "El Diario," the main objective of the Hispanic Day Parade, which was mainly run by Puerto Ricans, is to unite all peoples of the Spanish language. The Puerto Rican Day Parade is founded by Victor Lopez, the march’s first president; coordinator Jose “Chuito” Caballero; Peter Ortiz; Luisa Quintero; Luis Amando Feliciano; Vicente Hernández; Angel M. Arroyo; Atanacio Rivera Feliciano; and Amalio Maisanave Ríos.
April 1958: The first Puerto Rican Day parade is held on
April 12, 1959: The second parade goes off -- but not without a hitch. Community leaders and the media form an alliance called Un Frente Unido por un Solo Desfile (A United Front for One Parade) in an effort to unite the Hispanic Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Parade, urging organizers for unity and harmony. But to no avail. The president of the parade, Mr. Victor Lopez, is quoted in El Diario de Nueva
April 1960 & 1961: Parade continues its success up
June 1962: It’s official! The parade is held on June 10, the second Sunday in June and that date has not changed since. In order to have the legislators from the main island attend the parade – they’re all tied up until May 30 -- organizers decide to change the date to accommodate them and the route is extended from 44th-86th streets. Good thing they waited! The ‘62 parade is billed as the best, brightest, biggest and most expensive ever, costing $100,000 with 50 floats and 40 bands -- and half a million Boricuas in attendance. Yet it was former Mayor of San Juan Felisa Rincón who stole the show. Instead of staying with the rest of the politicians at the stage on
1965: Described as the best organized parade yet, thousands of people start lining along the route to get a glimpse of what the media called “The most genuine representation of Boricuas in the
1967: For the first time in its history, the Puerto Rican Day Parade is broadcast on television the same evening, June 4 from 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. on channel 47 Telemundo, sponsored by Schaefer Beer.
1968: The parade goes commercial. Responding to a petition by various Puerto Rican organizations, Goya, Accent, Café Caribe and Sazón all donate floats to the parade and once again, the event is hailed a success.
1969: The parade marks its first political incident, as supporters of Castro and Puerto Rican Nationalists march in protest and try to disturb the festive sprit by yelling “Yankees Go Home!” But nothing can ruin the excitement of over 100,000 marchers and 350,000 spectators. The festivities continued with no further interruptions, highlighted by artists such as the great Rita Moreno.
1972: Hailed as one of the most diverse parades in years, this year the parade opened its doors not just to dignitaries and beauty queens but also to nationalist and militant groups. They are allowed to march peacefully in protest against the
1975: Once again the parade hits another peak when more than half a million people march up Fifth Avenue for the annual festivities. The parade is dedicated to singer, songwriter and composer Bobby Capó, who, to this day, is considered one of
1977: With 350,000-plus in attendance, the parade is once again interrupted, but not by communist or nationalist groups. This time it’s former New York Congressman Herman Badillo. The police had to intervene when, without authorization from parade officials, he and his legion of organizers -- he was running for mayor -- decided to march. “El Diario La Prensa” quoted him as saying, “I march because I am one of the founders of the parade.” To avoid any further disruptions, coordinator Federico Pérez told police to let them march.
1980s: Throughout the ‘80s, the parade goes off without a hitch. It gets larger as more than 200,000 march and attendance nears the one million mark. The parade acquires more sponsors, such as Budweiser and Heineken, and many Puerto Rican legends, like Tito Puente, march. There are also flurries of parades throughout the boroughs and in
1990: One question was on the mind of every Boricua at the parade, should Puerto Ricans living in the
1995: It goes national! The Puerto Rican Day Parade becomes the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and delegates from 31 states join in. Salsa is the theme this year as singing sensations Tony Vega and Jerry Rivera join the march, along with the granddaddy of them all, Parade Godfather Gilberto Santa Rosa.
1996: The man who is known as the father of Puerto Rican culture, anthropologist, geologist and recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities award, Dr. Ricardo Alegría, is honored as the grand marshal of the parade. It is dedicated to the Korean War’s highly decorated 65th Infantry Regiment of Puerto Rico. It is also broadcast for the first time on English-language TV,
1998: Oh yes they did! They went there. A week before the “Seinfeld” grand finale and a month before the parade, Boricuas everywhere were shocked when one of the most popular shows in TV history aired the infamous flag-burning episode. The episode is set around the Puerto Rican Day Parade where Seinfeld and his buddies are driving back to the city after a Mets game and get stuck in traffic. Kramer blurts out “every Puerto Rican in the world must be out here.” While lighting a cigar with a sparkler, he sets a Puerto Rican flag on fire when he throws the sparkler in the back seat. In an attempt to put out the flames, he starts stomping on it. A group of spectators see him and declare “Maybe we should stomp you like you stomp the flag!” He screams and runs off as they chase him. Jerry, who by then is in his apartment, makes it to the window in time to see the crowd destroy his car. All while Kramer says, “It's like this every day in
1999: The first-ever Puerto Rican Day Parade is held in
2000: It’s a sad day for all, as the parade is dedicated to the memory of Boricua Great Tito Puente, whose unexpected death comes one month before the national event. And, in a shameful turn of events, the parade, not ever having a single incident of lawlessness, is marred by controversy as more than 50 women are assaulted in
2001: Although the assaults of the previous year loom over the parade, politicians such as former Mayor Guiliani, Senator Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer urge people to not hold the parade responsible for the previous year’s tragedy. Celebrities come out in droves, including boxing champ Tito Trinidad, Marc Anthony, former Ms. Universe Denise Quiñones and
2002-2003: Even though a record-breaking 2.5 million Puerto Ricans attended the parade in 2003, the public and media won't forget what happened and the positive message to be proud of Puerto Rican heritage and its contributions to
2004: There’s controversy again as businesses and condos board up their exteriors along the route. Storeowners and tenants claim property will be destroyed by parade goers. The community is outraged and Mayor Bloomberg criticizes the move. The Post sponsors its first float, featuring reggaetón superstars Tego Calderon and Vico C.
2005: Reggaetón continues to rise in popularity. Daddy Yankee is the N.Y. Post's float star. At
2006: Rocking a guayabera, Mayor Bloomberg marches alongside the Latino mega-power couple Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. Rosie Perez, Jimmy Smits, Willie Colón and Don Omar, among others, march. Grand Marshal Marc Anthony and J-Lo sit in a convertible and are escorted by NYPD security 12-deep. The New York Post keeps it local, getting Yerba Buena to rock their float with traditional folkloric songs.
Sources: Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at
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