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Parade Welcomes All Latinos… A Banner Day For Puerto Rico

Puerto Rican Party On The Parkway; Parade Welcomes All Latinos


September 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Daily News. All rights reserved.

THIS IS NOT your parents' Puerto Rican Day parade.

As the city's Latino population diversifies, so too does the annual Puerto Rican Day parade, a Philadelphia tradition celebrating its 42nd year on Sunday.

Besides watching performers play traditional salsa music, paradegoers will hear the guitar rhythms of bachata from the Dominican Republic and banda, modern Mexican music currently popular in the Southwest, say organizers.

"It's a very exciting moment for not only the Puerto Ricans, but for all Latinos," organizer Jose Rivera said about the desfile, or parade. He's deputy director of the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations Inc., better known as Concilio, which organizes the parade as part of the annual Philadelphia Puerto Rican Festival. Maria Del Pilar, the ubiquitous Telemundo personality, will be the parade's Grand Marshal.

"I'm so happy to be the grand marshal because if someone loves Puerto Rico, it's me," she said. "Puerto Rico is the heart of Latin America."

Don't expect to hear Spanish-language hip-hop if you're coming down to 21st and Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the parade's noontime start, said Roberto Santiago, executive director of the council.

"We want to keep true to the tradition. We want to make sure the music is culturally relevant not just to Puerto Rico, but to 19 other countries," he said.

It's a far cry from the days when the parade, and its accompanying gala the night before, were planned around mayors and dignitaries traveling from Puerto Rico, Rivera said. Back then Puerto Ricans made up most of Philadelphia's Latino community. Today, they remain the overwhelming majority, but immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia and the Dominican Republic have seen their numbers jump. For instance, the Guatemalan population grew 510 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to U.S. Census figures. Dominicans saw a 250 percent spike during the same time period.

Still, the parade will prominently feature one distinctively Boricua symbol: the world's longest Puerto Rican flag. The 70-foot flag, used each year in the New York Puerto Rican Day parade, is being shipped from New York City, courtesy of its owner (and parade sponsor) Goya Foods.

The red, white and blue requires 40 people to carry it, and Santiago is seeking out volunteers for the job. Interested flag carriers are urged to call up Concilio at 215-627-3100.

Santiago is quite convinced that Philadelphia's event is up there with la creme de la creme of Puerto Rican Day parades.

"I have attended many...and if it's not the best, it's the second best," he said, adding he's been to at least 25 desfiles.

Anyone who can't go to the parade can catch Sunday's festivities on WPVI-TV (Channel 6) from 1 to 3 p.m.

After the parade on Sunday, festivities shift to American and Lehigh, where the traditional post-parade concert will take place.

The fiesta will feature live music and vendors, giving paradegoers a place catch up with others.

"It's become part of the tradition. " Santiago said.

Del Pilar, known for her local segments on the national program "De Todo Un Poco," will not only serve as parade marshal, she's also mistress of ceremonies for the banquet and dance gala the night before at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza in Center City.

The 7 p.m. soiree features salsa act Raphy Leavitt and his band La Selecta from Puerto Rico. Two awards will be presented, one to Secretary of State for the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes, for "Citizen of the Year," and one to Roger Zepernick, executive director of Centro Pedro Claver.

Artwork by local Latino artists such as Venezuelan Jose Ali Paz and Puerto Rican-born Lucas Rivera will be exhibited around the ballroom. *

The 42nd Annual Regional Puerto Rican Parade begins at 21st and Benjamin Franklin Parkway Sunday at noon. Parade runs south on 20th Street to Market Street; east on Market Street to 16th Street; north on 16th Street to Benjamin Franklin Parkway; west on Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Logan Circle, 19th Street and the Parkway. The annual after-parade concert and dance is at American Street and Lehigh Avenue, Sunday at 4 p.m.

The Festival Banquet and Dance Gala is at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel tomorrow, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. $125 for dinner and dance, $35 for dance only.

A Banner Day For Puerto Rico


September 27, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Philadelphia Daily News. All rights reserved.

It was to be expected that during yesterday's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Ben Franklin Parkway would be awash in the red, white and blue of Puerto Rico's flag.

Parade-goers waved flags, wore them on their heads or draped them over their shoulders. The more creative types wore colorful beaded flag necklaces or painted the familiar white star, blue background and red/white stripes on their T-shirts. Heck, even cutie-pie pups donned the colors.

But when the world's largest Borinquen flag made its appearance at the parade review stand, carried by about 40 people, the crowds cheered loudly. And waved their flags with fervor.

Many attending the 42nd annual parade, which began at noon and ended about 4 p.m., were just plain proud, they say.

"This is my parade. It's part of my culture," said Jose Torres, 43, a construction worker who lives in the Art Museum area. "If I close my eyes, I transport myself to the island."

If it were only that easy. But the parade was in Philadelphia with a definite local flavor. Gov. Rendell, Mayor Street and Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortes marched and shook hands with the crowd.

For Mayor Street, attending was a big thank you.

"It's fair to say that the Puerto Rican community is just a huge, huge part of the political base that I've had that made it possible for me to even become an elected official of any kind, much less a mayor," he said.

Politics aside, the parade attracted about 6,500 participants and some 4,000 onlookers, said Roberto Santiago, executive director of the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations Inc., known as Concilio. Performers included dance troupes CUNAD and Grupo Fuego, and students from various schools including Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter and Hallahan High School.

Jose Torres, who has seen the parade each year since he moved to Philadelphia 14 years ago, was a rare sight yesterday. The native of Juanadiaz, Puerto Rico, didn't carry a flag or wear any red, white or blue.

"My flag is in here," Torres said, smiling and tapping his chest. "In my heart."

Police reported two arrests at the parade for assaults on police.

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