Sunset Park

Sunset Park Puerto Rican Parade takes political tone

June 10, 2019 Paul Frangipane
Crowd members raise their fists in unity as speakers touch on political and human rights issues affecting the Puerto Rican community. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Hours after the 62nd Annual Puerto Rican parade in Manhattan kicked off on Sunday, the Sunset Park community danced and marched their way down Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue for a festival of their own — one with underlying tones of politics and ceremony.

For the fifth year in a row, El Grito De Sunset Park hosted the local parade and festival — and for the second year in a row, the group organized a candlelit vigil for the victims of Hurricane Maria, including those who died in the aftermath due to government neglect.

Crowds lined up along Fifth Avenue to watch the procession go by. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Community members danced and marched down Fifth Avenue to the beat of traditional Boricua music. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

“I know we’re here to celebrate. I know this is a good time, but we have to have the balance,” said Adrián “Viajero” Román, the local artist who created the vigil display.

“We have to remember our people that are here and that are doing amazing things … but we also have to remember the folks that are looking down at us and are proud of everyone’s presence.”

Román set up an altar of candles in the park that was decorated with water-damaged photos from families in Puerto Rico who lost their homes.

“We’re losing our people,” he said, “so we just want to acknowledge they’re here.”

The altar was decorated with family photos from people in Puerto Rico who lost their homes in the hurricane. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
The altar was decorated with family photos from people in Puerto Rico who lost their homes in the hurricane. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Attendees lit candles for the hurricane victims. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Attendees lit candles for the hurricane victims. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Marching to traditional Boricua music, revelers in the parade leading up to the festival sported signs reading, “Protect Sunset Park,” pushing community members to oppose a possible reshaping of the neighborhood’s waterfront.

“I’m here to remind everyone … our community is under attack,” said Antoinette Martinez of Protect Sunset Park.

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She referred to a possible rezoning of the Industry City complex on and around Second Avenue that could add luxury hotels and retail stores.

“You see those cranes right behind me in Manhattan?” Martinez asked the crowd. “If this rezoning goes through, those cranes will be a lot closer.”

Crowds lined up along Fifth Avenue to watch the procession go by. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Crowds lined up along Fifth Avenue to watch the procession go by. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

Another issue that left festival-goers fired up was the fight to cancel Puerto Rico’s more than $120 billion of debt and pension obligations. A federal court case in Manhattan currently seeks to restructure that debt.

Nicole Torres Bruno of #CanceltheDebt urged the community to show up in court to make their voices heard.

“If we can show up for a parade and if we can show up for a festival, we’re going to show up for our people,” she said. “This is not just a Puerto Rican issue, it’s a human rights issue.”

Paul Frangipane is a proud Brooklyn College alumnus and New Jersey native. He documents daily life and overlapping cultures through photography and videography. You can follow more of his work on Twitter and Instagram

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