Puerto Rican Day Parade in NY highlights continued struggle post-Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rican Day Parade in NY highlights continued struggle post-Hurricane Maria

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National Puerto Rican Day Parade holds first parade post Hurricane Maria and since new death toll number of estimated 4,645 is recently reported.
NorthJersey

Thousands lined the streets of Manhattan on Sunday, waving red, white and blue flags for the 2018 Annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade, the first since Hurricane Maria battered the island, leaving destruction in its wake. 

The parade celebrated Puerto Rican heritage with plenty of music, dance and cheer, but in the midst of revelry, it was apparent that the hurricane was still very much on people’s minds. Participants carried messages of solidarity for their fellow Puerto Ricans on the island who are still recovering from the September storm. 

 “Viva Puerto Rico,”  and  “Puerto Rico se levanta” or “Puerto Rico will rise” were among the statements written on placards carried by participants. 

“This makes me so emotional and sentimental,” said Kenia Ciuro, who moved to the Bronx in November with her 11-year-old daughter after Hurricane Maria destroyed her home in Penuelas, on the southern coast of the island. “One can’t help but think that you want to be able to return to the island.” 

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Some attendees wore black to denounce the federal government’s response to the storm. 

Ramon Rodriguez of Newark said he would be wearing a black T-shirt to remember those who died and those still affected. He also planned to wear a  black cap with the number 4,645, reflecting the estimated death toll in the aftermath of the hurricane due to delayed medical care, based on a recently published survey by Harvard researchers.

“The attention given to the island was minuscule, very low; it was very slow, it was disgraceful what the president did,” said Rodriguez before the parade. “The parade will be the same with the number of people it gets every year, but in the back of minds, a lot of them are going to be remembering all the lives lost. I’m sure the floats and some of those marching will have the T-shirts too.” 

Magalye Matos of Englewood said she hasn’t gone to the parade in the last few years, but on Sunday she was there with her daughter, London, 3, and son, Christopher 13. The three sported red, white and blue clothing. 

“We are going to make a stand, and we are going to march in our parade and we are going to see us all together and marching in solidarity for Puerto Rico,” she said. “I love the black and the mourning, but I feel that I’m going to honor my flag originally the way it was made and I’m going to wear it loud and proud.”  

 A sea of flags could be seen along the parade route on Fifth Avenue, with many people also wearing the colors of the flag. Spectators draped the flag over their shoulders as they waved to marchers. 

The crowds cheered and danced as floats made their way up north, past Central Park and residential buildings at 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Some spectators brought typical Puerto Rican food, including rice and pigeon peas, to eat while they watched the parade. 

Still, the mood of protest was unmissable.

One float carried a small sign that read, “Stop lying, we are dying.”

Geraldo Barcene Jr., 56, said the federal government continues to not do enough to help Puerto Rico.

“The people on the island can’t do it themselves,” he said. “They know Puerto Rico needs help. They have helped Florida when they needed help, and that help should be given to Puerto Rico and they need it more.” 

People also questioned the government’s official death toll of 64. The storm led to power outages and a disruption in medical services across the island, and many homes were left for weeks without water, electricity or cell phone coverage. Researchers in the Harvard study, published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, said 4,645 lost their lives after the Sept. 20 storm. 

Richie Roman of New York City said he was on the island during the storm, and his son, who is still there, said families were forced to bury their dead on their own property because they couldn’t access funeral homes. 

“I was there. There was a lot more people there that were lost,” Roman said. 

Puerto Rican officials have said that a separate study by George Washington University into the fatalities of Hurricane Maria is forthcoming.

Among those marching in the parade were Puerto Ricans who have relocated to the mainland because they were displaced from their homes. The parade also honored those who helped with the emergency response soon after the storm, and those who have continued to lend a hand during ongoing recovery efforts. David Begnaud, a CBS News reporter, was among the honorees, chosen for his coverage of the hurricane and its aftermath.

The parade typical draws more than a million spectators, and is one of New York City’s largest. 

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