The 62nd National Puerto Rican Day Parade took to the streets of New York City yesterday, led by one of the world’s most recognizable San Juan natives, Grand Marshal Ricky Martin. The celebration, attended by a mix of thousands of New Yorkers and out-of-towners, was organized around the theme of “One People, Many Voices,” honoring the diversity that the Boricua identity represents.
Martin was honored for the important work he has done with the Ricky Martin Foundation, an organization he founded in the early 2000s in response to the scourge of human trafficking that has affected his home island as well as other islands in the Caribbean, a crime he has likened to “modern-day slavery.” Human trafficking can exploit victims for sex, labor, drugs, and even organs. Other honorees of the parade this year included the late trans activist Sylvia Rivera — support the Sylvia Rivera Law Project to carry on her legacy — and MJ Rodríguez of Pose. Rodríguez told a local ABC affiliate, “They need to see that because they need to see that I’m a normal person. They won’t have to see me so much as the ‘trans’ figure but they’ll see me as the woman who is trying to make her way for many other Hispanic Latina women of my experience.”
The coastal town of Loíza, a hub of Afro-Puerto Rican culture a short hop away from the capital, was recognized for its rich history in what is its 300th anniversary as a community, one that has survived despite having been hit hard by Hurricane Maria. “Loíza has undergone an amazing transformation since Hurricane Maria,” said the Board Chair of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. “From dance to music to food, Loíza has contributed to Puerto Rican culture and represents some of the best of the island.”
The parade wouldn’t be complete without the attendance of the most prominent Puerto Rican currently in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who joined veteran congresswoman Nydia Velázquez and other local politicians to celebrate the city’s Puerto Rican identity — though Mayor Bill di Blasio was notably not in attendance, having instead taken part in a large Democratic party event in Iowa. His campaigning also led him to miss the rally for the 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund, where AOC was just one of several New York lawmakers pushing to have the funding extended well beyond its current 2020 expiration. “We have to be there for our heroes no matter what. No matter the cost,” said Ocasio-Cortez at the rally. “Because if we can’t get health care for these folks, how can we get healthcare for anybody?”