There was a time, not too long ago, when Puerto Ricans basically ran New York. Just as L.A. has always been the U.S.’s Mexican city par excellence, and Miami is our Little Havana, Nueba Yol is traditionally Puerto Rico’s stateside outpost and an epicenter of Puerto Rican cultural effervescence.
But it’s no secret that things have changed, and the New York City of 2015 is a much more diverse place, enriched by Latino communities from Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico, and Ecuador, just to name a few. And while each group brings its own unique sabor to the New York ethnic tapestry, the Puerto Rican imprint on the city continues resonating throughout the five boroughs despite the community’s dwindling visibility.
Perhaps no barrio is more emblematic of these changes than Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Once a Puerto Rican stronghold in Kings County, the neighborhood has been reinvigorated by a influx of Mexican immigrants – along with Dominicans, Colombians, Chinese, and Palestinians – that have turned the neighborhood into NYC’s unofficial Little Puebla. But the preexisting Puerto Rican community continues to stake its claim on the neighborhood’s history with murals, street fairs, and cultural events that bring a little taste of el caribe to Sunset’s vibrant Latino stewpot.
And now the community is abuzz with news that Sunset Park’s long running but unofficial Puerto Rican Day Parade has finally been sanctioned by the city government after years of tension with local police. Coordinated by a community organization called El Grito de Sunset Park, the 1st Annual Sunset Park Puerto Rican Parade and Festival is being touted as a neighborhood-oriented alternative to the highly corporate spectacle of Manhattan’s massive Puerto Rican Day Parade; offering a day of Bomba y Plena, baile, and folklor in the spirit of a traditional Puerto Rican carnaval.
Anyone who’s made it out to the 5th Avenue parade over the last few years knows that this cultural element has been sorely lacking, so kudos to the folks at El Grito for bringing this celebration back to its essence. The parade will be held this Sunday, June 14th, and will begin at 5pm at the intersection of 59th St. and 5th Avenue in Brooklyn.
For those who want to help out with the cause, El Grito will be holding a fundraising event tonight, Friday, June 12th at the Trinity Lutheran Church at 411 46th St., Brooklyn, from 8pm-11pm. The night’s focus on art, music, and Puerto Rican traditions will be sort of a pre-game for Sunday’s main event. Donations can also be made via gofundme. So getcho banderas on, take out the maracas, hop on that R-train, and get ready to yell ¡WEEEPA! till you’re blue in the face.