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Puerto Rican Day Parade to highlight hurricane heroes, recovery

13 June 2018

PATERSON, NJ- When Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, President Donald Trump said the island was "obliterated", and, while the initial death toll at the time was minimal, a more recent study conducted by Harvard University indicated that almost 5,000 people lost their lives to the devastating storm. It started at 44th St. and ended on 79th St.

The celebration planned for Sunday will have the usual floats, musicians and brightly colored costumes.

There was also a powerful current of anger, frustration and mourning, manifested most often in blacked-out Puerto Rican flags and signs bearing the number 4,645, a recent estimated death toll on the island (up from the Puerto Rican government's initial count of 64) from Hurricane Maria. Some parade-goers have draped Puerto Rican flags over their shoulders. "We are Americans, and I think that I came to represent the fact that no one wants to admit that nearly 5,000 lives were lost in Hurricane Maria", Ortiz, 53, of Brooklyn, said.

A man rolls on a hover-board along Fifth Avenue during lasy year s National Puerto Rican Day Parade in NY.

Some demonstrators chanted "Respect Puerto Rico" as the parade passed Trump Tower.

'Maria unmasked that we are a colony, ' said Pabon, 66, of the Bronx.

Like many people, Anya Garcia showed up with her extended family.

"This is a very important parade and a very meaningful parade given the tragedy and the devastation of the homeland", Louis Maldonado said on Friday prior to Sunday's big parade.

"We're three generations strong here", said Garcia, 35, of Brooklyn.

Saying that "the Island is still reeling from the storm and is expected to for several years", Senator Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) who has been active in several efforts to provide relief, and traveled to the island in February, encouraged evacuees to attend the session to acquaint themselves with resources "available to them here in New Jersey, whether they intend to make New Jersey their new permanent home, or return to Puerto Rico".

The event, which will feature an appearance from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), will take place on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

This year's parade comes a year after a controversial one, when the parade organization chose to recognize Oscar Lopez Rivera, a former member of a militant group responsible for a series of bombings. That led some sponsors to withdraw their support and some politicians like Cuomo to decline to take part.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, center, leading a group of state and city officials during the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

'They said, 'Great. We can work on our tans.' And I said, 'Not exactly.

Puerto Rican Day Parade to highlight hurricane heroes, recovery