Puerto Ricans celebrate heritage despite fresh pain of Maria

As a sanctuary city, Philadelphia is home to many different cultural groups. To celebrate Puerto Rican pride and culture, the annual Puerto Rican Festival Parade is a joyful showcase of Puerto Rican and Hispanic traditions, music and more. With approximately 5,000 people in attendance on Sunday, the parade gave non-Hispanic attendees a glimpse of a vibrant group of people that enjoy classic sounds of salsa music and newer rhythms of reggaeton.

Unlike most years though, the 2017 edition of the Puerto Rican Festival Parade carried a more somber tone. In the wake of a brutal hurricane season that ravaged the Caribbean and some parts of the United States, the entire island of Puerto Rico has been left without power.

Mindful of current events, young Puerto Ricans like Joy Soto of Chi Upsilon Sigma Latin Sorority Inc. recognized the importance of representation. “We’re a Latina-based sorority, but we’re also very multicultural. We’ll be performing today and are one of the first Latina-based sororities to step and stroll. It’s important for us to be here because we’ve been here a lot in the past and we’re coming back after a few years. As a Philly native, it’s important to continue the tradition of the Puerto Rican Day parade, especially after the tragedy that just happened last week. I know Concilio [The Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations, Inc.] is collecting money and collecting goods that will go directly to families in Puerto Rico that a lot of us still haven’t heard about.”

For Wilmington, Delaware, resident Neph Tali, coming to Philly for the Puerto Rican parade was about supporting other Puerto Ricans and finding unity. “I brought my kids out here to support. Even though we’re going through a tragedy in Puerto Rico with what’s going on, we’re celebrating our Puerto Rican heritage. We’re suffering from not hearing from our families in Puerto Rico, but being here with all of us together gives us a good feeling. Seeing the unity is awesome, and I hope that we will rebuild Puerto Rico. I’m pretty sure that we will. Something’s coming soon.”

At a time when many Puerto Rican streets were still flooded, a celebration of Puerto Rican culture and life was as cathartic as it was uplifting. Hurricane Maria may have destroyed much of Puerto Rico, but no natural disaster could ever defeat the spirit of Puerto Ricans everywhere.