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The Providence Journal

Celebrating Puerto Rico’s Culture

August 15, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The Providence Journal. All Rights Reserved.

Music, food, rides and a parade are planned for the five-day festival in Providence, which began August 15.

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PROVIDENCE - As the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade marches down Broad Street through the city's southern heart on Sunday, state Sen. Frank Caprio, the grand marshal, will lead a contingent of high- steppers, marchers, and "dancing horses" originally from the island of Vieques .

Adding glamour will be Miss Puerto Rico of Rhode Island 2001, Charlene Cruz; Miss Teen 2001, Melody Sanchez, and Miss Enfantil 2001 (Little Miss) Ciara Montes, as they ride on parade floats.

Fiestas Patronales of Rhode Island, featuring five days of salsa and sound, high-stepping marchers and color guards, rides and fireworks, officially begins today at noon, when the Puerto Rican flag will be hoisted at City Hall.

"We will have some dignitaries there, and a little taste of our cultural dancing" to mark the start of the five-day heritage festival, said parade director and organizer Lydia M. Rivera.

After the flag raising, the festival site opens this evening at 6 at Harborside, at the Port of Providence, next to Johnson & Wales University, with rides, local bands, and events for children.

Although uncertain late yesterday, festival spokeswoman Enid De Leon said there may be a fireworks display tonight at 10. More likely, the fireworks will take place Sunday at 8 p.m., De Leon said.

Fiestas Patronales of Rhode Island is dedicated this year to peace in Vieques , the island off Puerto Rico where U.S. military bombing exercises have drawn intensifying protests.

The entertainment schedule is as follows:

Today at noon, there will be an opening ceremony at City Hall, then festival grounds open at 6 p.m. with rides and other entertainment.

Tomorrow from 6 to 10 p.m., there will be live wrestling and local musical performers at the site.

Friday, "International Celebration Night," will feature bachata, merengue, Spanish rap music and live bands from 6 to 10 p.m.

Saturday, from 1 to 10 p.m., salsa singer Lalo Rodriguez and live bands from Puerto Rico and New York will perform.

On Sunday, the parade steps off at noon, from Thurbers Avenue and Broad Street, marching down Narragansett Avenue to the festival site. Live entertainment from 2 to 10 p.m. will feature Nino Segarra and David Pabon from Puerto Rico , salsa singer Anthony Cruz, and Y.U.M., from New York City.

"The floats are coming in from Connecticut, from Massachusetts and Rhode Island," said Rivera, and they "are being built mostly by people in the community." Competition is so intense, Rivera said, "that I've been sworn to secrecy" as to the building locations.

Also marching or riding on floats will be Osvaldo "Ozzie" R. Castillo, president of Fiestas Patronales; Councilwoman Patricia Nolan, who is the parade godmother; Mel D. Rivera, parade godfather; "jibara" Magdalana Picot, a corrections supervisor, and "jibaro" Candy Maldonado, a businessman.

According to Rivera, "jibara" depicts "a very mild, humble, proud Puerto Rican ." This year the tribute falls to Picot, "who came from very humble beginnings in Puerto Rico , and is now one of the supervisors at the ACI, as well as a poet.

This year's "jibaro," Maldonado, owner of Ponce Auto Repair in Providence, "depicts the hard-work ethic." Mel Rivera, the parade godfather and husband of festival organizer Lydia Rivera, has lived in Rhode Island nearly 30 years and "is the state's first Hispanic forensic mental-health worker." Nolan, the parade godmother, "is a councilwoman who has shown an enormous amount of respect, not just for the Puerto Rican community," but for the diverse ethnic groups in her district, Lydia Rivera said.

Throughout the festival, food vendors will sell the traditional arroz con gandules (rice and beans), and carne asada (grilled meat), as well as cotton candy, T-shirts and other souvenirs.

Rivera, a member of the Puerto Rican Fiestas Patronales of Rhode Island, an executive board that organizes five major events for the Puerto Rican community each year, helped organize the original parade 18 years ago, and "I was one of the proud participants," she added.

That parade has evolved into Fiestas Patronales, including the five-day event in Providence, and a similar three-day Puerto Rican Festival in Woonsocket set for Sept. 14-16, Rivera said.

This year's festival and parade are sponsored by the City of Providence, the state, Radio Station Poder 1110, Mildred's Clothing of Providence, and Budweiser. Graphics designer is Angelica Rivera, 13, the festival organizer's daughter, who designed the programs and invitations for the event.

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