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Sunset Park’s Puerto Rican Parade and Festival returns for fifth straight year

Education and unity are the dual themes of Sunset Park’s fifth annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival, taking place on June 9.

Hosted by organization by El Grito de Sunset Park, under the direction of the group’s founder, Dennis Flores, this year’s iteration — which will kick off from Fifth Avenue and 59th Street at 5 p.m. — will feature musical acts such as Los Pleneros de la 21 and the Toca All-Stars Salsa Orchestra.

According to Musical Director Indy Cordova-Ortiz, having a parade celebrating Puerto Rican pride in the neighborhood for locals, “Unifies us for a moment and sets a peaceful and a happy tone for everybody,” even in a period of discord.

“I’m a person that thinks that culture and traditions make a big impact in the community,” she said.

The parade will continue to feature traditional Boricua carnival processions, local artists, businesses and collaborative organizations. It will be followed by a full-stage concert of salsa, bomba y plena, hip hop and spoken word at the main entrance of Sunset Park, 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

This year, the parade is supported by Borough President Eric Adams. “The Puerto Rican community in Brooklyn is vibrant and resilient, and this parade highlights their tremendous contributions to our borough and our city,” he said. “At a time when Puerto Rican communities across the country are still recovering from the trauma of Hurricane Maria, it is especially important that we show our solidarity with them. I want to thank El Grito for organizing this event, and for their tireless advocacy for the Sunset Park community.”

El Grito believes that its parade offers a local spin that the bigger and more publicized parade in Manhattan doesn’t, in part because area schools and other groups are involved.

“A lot of people get turned off on the concept of the Manhattan parade and how it’s basically a show,” Cordova-Ortiz said. “The Brooklyn parade is more homey. The way that it’s set up, it gives people a chance to actually enjoy and learn something versus the whole, spectacular, ‘This is a show. We’re all making money out of it.’”

The parade also has the support of the United Federations of Teachers, because of its educational value, and the windows it opens onto the subject of Puerto Rican culture.

“The teachers and principals of schools in Brooklyn want to participate and show their students what it means to be in a parade,” she said. “That’s a highlight because kids actually wanting to participate in a parade and experience it is important. It starts with our children.

“Everyone is on the same page, “Cordova-Ortiz continued. “They just want to share their music and talent, have fun as a community and show what we’re about, because a lot of Hispanics, specifically Puerto Ricans, don’t know what their culture is about.

“When we first started this parade, there weren’t as many people on the street supporting it,” she added. “Over the years, I see more people asking, wanting to be involved, especially last year when Dennis did the Hurricane Maria relief. The amount of people that actually showed up to support and help was amazing.”

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