A festive Puerto Rican tradition is growing in Sunset.
El Grito de Sunset Park hosted its second annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival and it turned out to be even bigger and more successful than last year.
During the celebration, held on Sunday, June 12, Sunset Park residents were joined by local elected officials, musicians, performers, dancers, police and honorees. Longtime educator, author and performer Maritza Arrastia, and actor, veteran and singer J.W. Cortes, were named the Madrina and Padrino of the ceremony.
“We had a successful parade and it’s great for it to turn it into a real community gathering,” said Dennis Flores, founder of El Grito de Sunset Park. “We had a lot more music and activities. It was extremely well worth the hard work.”
According to NYPD Brooklyn South Chief Steven Powers, attendance was 20 percent larger than last year’s parade, with a rough estimate of 10,000 people attending the festivities.
“It was extremely vibrant and colorful,” said organizer and former assemblymember Javier Nieves. “We also honored and dedicated the parade to Yvonne Cruz, the wife of Danny Moran who organized the car and motorcycle clubs. Cruz died months ago and was helpful with organizing last year’s parade.”
The actual ceremony started with Reverend Samuel Cruz, pastor at Sunset’s Trinity Lutheran Church, who took a moment to address the mass shooting in Orlando.
According to Flores, there were several additions to last year’s event. “We had a lot more live music. Last year, we didn’t have any floats. Now we had a bunch,” he said, adding that several Puerto Rican artifacts were on display as well as salsa bands on the floats.
Flores is happy to keep the parade for Sunset residents. “We stayed local and did it in a grassroots, organic way. The community is more invested in it. We don’t want to go commercial and lose that element,” he said.
Another important purpose of the parade was to bridge the gap between the community and the police, which was accomplished. “One of the main goals of why this parade was formed in the first place was to address tension with the precinct. That tension is not the case any longer,” said Nieves.
“Before, there were confrontations with police. Now we are working together with the cops,” added Flores, who honored several cops. “Captain Emmanuel Gonzalez has been great working with us. We were meeting with him every week showing support. We are grateful for leaders like him.”
Cortes, who plays Detective Alvarez in the hit television show “Gotham,” was thrilled to be a part of the parade. “It was one of those coming-full-circle moments for me,” he said. “I’ve always been proud to be from Sunset Park. There have been changes in the neighborhood, so to come back home greeted by so many people and hopefully inspire the kids, it doesn’t get better for me as an artist.”