New York - This time, the celebration was different. Joy at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York had certain solemn nuances: those victims of Hurricane Maria and the diaspora that also carries the weight of the loss and frustration before an island that has changed forever.
"Trump, Puerto Rico is your Katrina," read the banner of a delegation led by congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.
Beyond the music, the floats and the boricua pride that have characterized this parade for the last 61 years, this time, after the devastation caused by María, the parade became a platform to keep the Puerto Rico issue alive in the United States.
In black and referring to the 4,645 victims of Hurricane María, according to a Harvard University study, Rubén Díaz Jr., the Borough President of the Bronx in New York City, Congressman Adriano Espaillat and Assemblyman Marcos A. Crespo carried a banner that exhorted to "remember, vote and resist".
The effort of keeping the Puerto Rico issue alive -along with the aid still needed- on the island was shown not only during the tribute to those who worked in the emergency and recovery phase but also with the presence of those Puerto Ricans displaced due the hurricane.
Jonathan Medina, his wife Jennyliz Nevárez and their children are one of the displaced families living in New York. "We are fighting, trying to get an apartment, fighting together," said Medina, who arrived in November and is currently living in the Bronx.
Joining the parade was important for this family. "Being part of the parade is like a symbol towards Puerto Rico, for which we are still fighting," said Medina.
As part of the claims regarding the situation in Puerto Rico, on their way from 44th Street to 79th Street crossing Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, members of the Poncili Creación performance group represented the mourning for the 4,645 victims and criticized the debt with objects like tombstones. "Pa'l carajo la deuda," (To hell with the debt) shouted some participants on Fifth Avenue.
But there was also joy and personalities like Jorge Posada, Zuleyka Rivera, Esaí Morales, journalist David Begnaud and Victoria Sanabria, they all received applauses and effusive greetings with Puerto Ricans flags.
"The parade is an opportunity to heal, to unite us as a community and to express that we are present, that we continue pa 'adelante (forward). But it is also a platform to emphasize that Puerto Rico needs help and that what the federal government has done is not enough," said Melissa Mark Viverito, former New York City Councilwoman, who participated in the parade as part of a citizen front that is demanding a public debt audit.
Although the hurricane was the backdrop, for many people it was a day to celebrate family history and the ties with their homeland or the one they inherited.
One of those was Joselyn Colón. "This is part of my culture," she said, hugging her two-month-old baby, asleep and dressed in the Puerto Rican flag.
"The Puerto Rican Parade is the most important thing we have," said Claribel Montañez, who was born in Dorado but lives in New York. "I have taught my children and grandchildren that Puerto Rico is worth what it weights," she added as a further reminder that in the diaspora, the island is always there.
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