June 11, 2017
New York’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade took place along a stretch of 5th Avenue today. To the traditional ingredients of cultural pride, unity, and fun that always comprise the occasion, a measure of controversy was added this year.
The first dollop was PR’s financial crisis and the resulting austerity program being implemented on the island. The next was the plan to honor Oscar López Rivera as a “National Freedom Hero” by the parade’s organizers. But faced with a backlash by sponsors and other stakeholders the plan was modified. López Rivera would march in the parade, but simply as “a humble Puerto Rican and a grandfather” instead of the parade’s designated hero. The compromise managed to alienate both supporters and opponents of López Rivera, and turnout appeared somewhat lighter than in previous years. Some sponsors withdrew their support and activists then called for boycotts against them. Finally, the parade was held on the same day that island voters were weighing in on statehood vs independence. That contest itself was boycotted by all but the statehood supporters and resulted in a lopsided outcome.
But despite all the controversy, undercurrents, and subplots, the parade fulfilled its primary objective of bringing out plenty of Boriqua pride in the forms of music, dance and costumes, not to mention countless Puerto Rican flags and many thousands of attendees and marchers. In the end, it was Broadway’s law – that the show must go on – that ruled the day on 5th Avenue.