Sunset Park played host again to its growing tradition of celebrating Puerto Rican pride, as the neighborhood’s Sixth Annual Puerto Rican Parade and Festival was held for the first time in three years on June 12.
The parade was brought back to the neighborhood in 2015 by community organization El Grito after years of not having one for decades.
El Grito founder Dennis Flores said it was great to bring the celebration back as locals and people that traveled from different areas came to support the prideful day.
“After two years of not being able to come together and have a parade due to the pandemic, the community made it abundantly clear that the Puerto Rican people aren’t going anywhere,” he said. “We continue to be here, survive and be resilient. But in order to continue to do so, we must always honor and memorialize all those who came before us and those who sacrificed for all of our well-being. That’s what this year’s parade meant to all of us.”
The music festival, featuring Afro-Puerto Rican Roots Bomba Ensemble Alma Moyó, also took place at 6 p.m. on Fifth Avenue and 43rd Street.
Elected officials also marched with parade-goers. The parade honored Councilmember Alexa Avilés, who represents the area, as the Madrina (grand marshal) of the parade.
“A longtime resident of Sunset Park, Alexa Avilés is fighting for our community by advocating for education, housing, immigrant justice, and the arts and ensuring that our community receives the resources we need to thrive,” El Grito said in a statement. “As a proud Boricua born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and raised in Brooklyn, Alexa Avilés understands the importance of celebrating Puerto Rican culture and heritage, and honoring those from our community who have contributed so much to its richness and diversity.”
Avilés said it was a joy to celebrate the parade’s return.
“So many neighbors turned out to enjoy the festivities together,” she said. “It was rich in symbolism and paid homage to the many Puerto Rican revolutionaries who fought for our island’s survival and self-determination.”
She added that marchers paid tribute to the more than 4,645 Puerto Ricans who died in Hurricane Maria and all those lost to COVID-19.
“It also paid tribute to figures from Lolita Lebrón to Pedro Albizu Campos, who were persecuted for their belief in independence,” she said. “The struggle for survival continues, as many communities’ members continue to fight inequities of today. Multiple parents came up to me and voiced disapproval of the proposed school budget cuts.
“Just like my heroes and ancestors, I am here to fight with them and for them every step of the way,” she said. Lebron was imprisoned for 25 years after carrying out an armed attack on the U.S. Capitol in 1954 that wounded five Congress members.
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez also spoke at the parade. “My Puerto Rican heritage has shaped me in significant ways,” he said. “Glad to join my Puerto Rican brothers and sisters in Bushwick and Sunset Park today to celebrate the richness of our culture and all we bring to Brooklyn and our city.”
Eagle Urban Media/Photo by Arthur De Gaeta
Eagle Urban Media/Photo by Ted General