The red, white and blue of the Puerto Rican flag on bandanas, shirts and beaded necklaces. Whirling dancers in sequined outfits. A sonic barrage of merengue, salsa and reggaeton.
Ox-driven wagons from Mayaguez among the colorful floats. Most of all, hundreds of thousands of roaring celebrants.
Crowds lined both sides of Fifth Avenue on Sunday for the National Puerto Rican Day parade, though one high-profile Puerto Rican was noticeably absent — Sonia Sotomayor, the New York-born federal appeals judge who is the first Latina nominated to the US Supreme Court.
Parade-goers said that her nomination had become a symbol of pride for many Latinos.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to expose us, to show that, not just Puerto Ricans, but Latinos, can be on top,” said Paige Mykoo, 16, Miss Puerto Rico of Brevard County, Florida, as she prepared to walk in the parade, which began under overcast skies about 11am at West 44th Street.
The Puerto Rican parade evolved in the early 1950s as a pan-Latino affair but later became more focused on celebrating Puerto Rican heritage. There are about 789,000 Puerto Ricans in the city, making them the largest Latino group in New York City. There were 2.3 million Hispanics in 2007 in the city, US Census Bureau data showed.
In recent years, the parade has attracted a wide spectrum of Latinos from various ethnic backgrounds.
A contingent of nearly 2,000 people from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, where some of Sotomayor’s relatives live, was also expected to participate in the parade. Though it wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many did come, dozens apparently showed up, sporting T-shirts with the name of the city.
Rafael Crespo, 69, who is originally from Mayaguez, on the western coast of the island, said he was doubly proud that Sotomayor is a Puerto Rican and had a direct connection to the city.
“It’s marvelous,” he said, adding that Sotomayor was a “bit liberal” for him. “But it’s an honor to have her as a good candidate for the Supreme Court.”
Sotomayor, a federal appeals court judge, was raised in a Bronx project and educated in the Ivy League. US President Barack Obama has urged the Senate to vote on confirming Sotomayor before it takes a break in August. Republicans say they need more time to review her nearly 17-year record on the federal bench.
The parade reflected the influence and achievements of Puerto Ricans and Latinos in the city. Politicians again strode up Fifth Avenue, among them New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor David Paterson and New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.
New York Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan greeted the crowds from a red carpet in front of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where he posed for photographs with politicians such as New York State Senate Malcolm Smith.
Stars of television, film and music were greeted with cries of adoration. Besides dozens of musicians and bands, the famous included Bernie Williams, Jose Feliciano and Grupo Mania.
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