As the 65th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade encompassed the streets of New York City on Sunday, June 12, Brooklyn got in on the celebrations with two parades of its own — one in Sunset Park and another in Bushwick.
This year marked the full return of both parades since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Adrián Román, an organizer of the Sixth Annual Sunset Park Puerto Rican Parade and Festival, said the march’s return to Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue was especially meaningful. Amidst the hardships of the past several years, the parade was intended to honor the lives of Puerto Ricans who were lost due to COVID-19 and Hurricane Maria.
“This year’s theme was special for various reasons,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “It was the return of the parade since the COVID pandemic, this year is the 100-year anniversary of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and it’s the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria. All three themes resulted in the loss of Puerto Rican lives.”
Thousands came out to celebrate the parade’s return, and remember those lives lost, Román said.
“We wanted this year’s theme to honor the lives we’ve lost due to COVID, Hurricane Maria, and those who fought for the liberation of Puerto Rico,” he said. “We believe as we celebrate and partake in the parade and festivities with our community in the physical, we always remember to honor and acknowledge those who are with us in the spiritual. We make sure to provide a space for our ancestors and past loved ones to be present with us.”
The turnout was strong, said Román, with people from the community and beyond taking to the outdoors to wave the Puerto Rican flag and celebrate their culture.
Across Brooklyn, the Knickerbocker Avenue Puerto Rican Day Parade took place in Bushwick, starting at Menahan Street and ending at Flushing Avenue. There, thousands waved Puerto Rican flags, danced to reggaeton and cheered marchers on for the fourth year.
The theme of this year’s parade was “La Historia de Nuestra Bandera,” which translates in English to “history of the flag.” Its intent was to “focus on the history of the island’s fight against colonialism and the people’s bravery during the revolt against the Spaniards,” according to organizers.
The primary goal of the local parades is to celebrate and honor Puerto Rican New Yorkers. However, the benefit to the community goes beyond just that.
“I think the Sunset Park Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival is an example to the surrounding communities that cultural pride and celebration is not exclusive to Puerto Ricans, but inclusive for all to have an opportunity to learn about Puerto Rican culture and history,” said Román. “Puerto Ricans have an extensive history of contributions in the United States, and in particular to neighborhoods like Sunset Park.”