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Candlelight vigil for victims of Hurricane Maria to be held after Sunset Puerto Rican Day Parade

El Grito’s fifth annual Sunset Park Puerto Rican Parade and Festival will bring the fun this Sunday, but also pay tribute to the fallen.

Following the parade and party, Sunset Park residents will gather at the park at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue at 8 p.m. for a candlelight vigil for those who died as a result of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in 2017.

“Celebrating our culture is important for our healing,” said Dennis Flores, parade organizer and co-founder of El Grito. “We invite our Sunset Park community to join us in honoring the lives of those who died in the wake of the storm, and those who stepped up to help Puerto Rico.”

More than 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, according to a recent Harvard University study of the aftermath of the storm, “exacerbated by the neglect of the U.S. and Puerto Rico government agencies,” El Grito wrote on its Facebook page.

Like last year, local artist Adrián Viajero Román will be organizing the vigil so the community can honor those who passed.

Roman is building an altar in the park, and is encouraging community members to add to the altar by bringing items that represent those that perished.

“I humbly ask you to consider joining me in my neighborhood of Sunset Park (inside the park) for a candlelight vigil honoring our lost loved ones during Hurricane Maria and in the aftermath,” Roman wrote on his Facebook page. “My neighborhood was once a very populated community of Puerto Ricans, and there are still many of us still there. Let’s come together as a community and share together, mourn together, and remember together everything our people have been through…. not only due to Maria, but under colonialism.”

Attendees are encouraged to bring candles, photos of loved ones and flowers.

Last year, Roman discussed the importance of the tribute.

“The vigil came about from going back and forth to Puerto Rico since October,” he said. “I had just come back from visiting the memorial in San Juan and it impacted me a lot. It felt like something was missing in New York and I wanted to bring it to my own community in Sunset Park.”

For more information on the vigil, visit https://bit.ly/31gmgKW.

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