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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

‘One of the greatest we’ve had’

The Puerto Rico Senate delegation marches down 5th Avenue during Sunday’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.

The single-star flag reigned supreme across 5th Avenue at Sunday’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade

By Richard Gutíerrez

Special to The Star

On 5th Avenue in New York City on Sunday, the 66th National Puerto Rican Day Parade took place, from 44th Street to 79th Street. Despite the air pollution caused by wildfires in Canada hundreds of miles away from The Big Apple, on the day of the parade the smoke had left the scene and attendance surpassed all expectations, with nearly 40,000 individuals participating in the parade and an estimated one million people watching from the sidelines.

The smoke produced by the wildfires had all officials and representatives of the participating organizations on edge leading up to parade day, because those conditions were the main cause of the cancellation of the reception hosted by Mayor Eric Adams at Gracie Mansion earlier in the week. Compared to the reception -- a significantly smaller activity with fewer people involved -- the parade would depend entirely on the weather conditions as it takes place completely outside. However, thanks to the good weather conditions, the annual event was celebrated with no setbacks.

“It was almost like a miracle; we were very concerned in regards to the wildfire situation, but on the day of the parade we were extremely surprised to see not a single cloud of smoke in the sky,” parade credentials official Wilson Nazario Torres told the STAR. “On top of that, that day was my 51st anniversary as a credentials area official, so to have the parade be celebrated despite all of the adversity we were facing, was a delightful thing to see. People didn’t want to go out because of the smoke and on top of that, this is only the second parade after the pandemic started, so the odds were not in our favor. Puerto Rican Week had already been affected because of the smoke; we didn’t want the parade to be canceled. Thankfully, it was one of the greatest we’ve had in the last nine years and the attendance was much greater than it was last year.”

Nazario added that he alone certified 21 different radio station teams, including technicians and reporters, all from Puerto Rico. He also stated that one of the things that made this event so special, on top of the attendance, is the fact that Puerto Ricans are the second-largest Hispanic group in the mainland United States, and despite Mexicans having a larger population in the U.S., the National Puerto Rican Day Parade is the largest Hispanic marching event in the nation.

“There was a larger effort this year in terms of raising the profile of the island,” Nazario said. “This was achieved by having much better coverage and sending a great number of important people from the island, including politicians, musical groups, and the radio station teams; the event was covered by many American and Puerto Rican entities as well. The parade gave a very good impression of our culture.”

Some of the Puerto Rican artists who traveled to the event included Eladio Carrión, J Wheeler and Chucho Avellanet. The parade included a range of musical genres such as salsa, reggaeton and plena. Most Puerto Rican municipalities were represented in the parade, as well.

“All of the parade carts and carnaval troupes were great, but Vieques had the most beautiful one, in my opinion,” Nazario said.

The event was Lillian Rodríguez López’s first parade as chair of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade organization’s board of directors. She was extremely grateful for the amount of hard work that was put into this year’s event and all the activities that took place during Puerto Rican week.

Her goals for next year include making sure all island municipalities are represented and gathering more funds for the scholarships provided by the organization to more than 100 university students of Puerto Rican descent thanks to the funds collected by “La Gran Gala Banquete.” This year the attendance duplicated the previous year’s, but next year Rodríguez wants to double the impact.

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