El Grito de Sunset Park will remember Hurricane Maria relief efforts during Puerto Rican Day Parade

It will be a day of reflection and celebration.

El Grito de Sunset Park is gearing up to host its fourth annual Puerto Rican Day Parade on Sunday, June 10.

After decades in which Sunset Park did not have a parade, the Puerto Rican tradition that started in 2015 has seen great success in the neighborhood, with thousands of people from near and far attending to celebrate their heritage with dancing, music, food and marching.

This year’s iteration will have special meaning as it will heavily acknowledge the devastation Hurricane Maria caused on the island last September.

Dennis Flores, founder of the group, along with other community leaders and residents, helped to spearhead a huge effort by the community to provide a large quantity of supplies for Puerto Rico, and said he wants to continue to bring Sunset together during this growing event.

“This parade is a pause to see what has been done. We definitely want to give back and recognize this community’s relief effort and what they were able to do,” he said.  “This is what we want to celebrate, recognize and honor. Puerto Ricans from Sunset Park, allies and the rest of our community got together. We have to keep doing this every year. It really is about how to keep community and making sure this isn’t something that gets commercialized like the national parade [in Manhattan] where that sense of community is lost. It should be about the voice of the community and its culture. People gathering for a parade should always be able to present a platform of identity, culture, history, and be at forefront of what’s happening on the island.”

Before the parade, the group — which worked with the National Latino Officers Association on the relief effort — will release a short documentary to tell the story of how the relief effort started and how far it got.

“It’s a beautiful story of what a small community like Sunset Park could do and, when organizing things like this, how far we can reach,” he said.

Flores wants most of the focus of the parade to be on the island’s difficult year. “Sunset Park stepped up in a big way where government failed,” he said. “The people were able to help out thousands of people in Puerto Rico.”

Like past years, the parade will begin at 5 p.m. at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street and end at 43rd Street. At 6:30 p.m. inside the park at 43rd and Fifth Avenue, there will be a musical festival.

The parade will also honor locals.

“These things are very symbolic about who in our community we feel are leaders that are giving back in many ways that get overlooked,” Flores said. “We will continue those traditions in this community to bring people together in that way. It’s how you build community. This parade always thinks about.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/elgritodesunsetpark.

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