Red, White, Blue & Green at 2011 Puerto Rican Day Parade
On June 12, New York City's Fifth Avenue became a sea of red, white & blue—the colors of the Puerto Rican flag—during the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, an annual event in Manhattan since 1958. And thanks to a contingent from the Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter, the day was colored green as well.
The parade capped off nearly a week of activities that included rallies, speeches, banquets, and musical, literary, and sporting events, celebrating all things Puerto Rican. Watch this video of the parade, and this one about the Puerto Rico Sierra Club.
More than 40 members of the Puerto Rico Sierra Club, including president Orlando Negrón, above, traveled to New York for the parade, which featured a Sierra Club float and members dressed up as a manatee, a parrot, turtles, and Planet Earth. Over 100 Club members marched in the Sierra Club contingent.
"There are more Puerto Rican people in the United States than on the island itself," says Puerto Rico Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman, below with U.S. Congressman José Serrano (D-NY). "The Puerto Rico Day Parade and its theme celebrating the natural beauty of the island was a great way to reach out to the second-largest Latino community in the nation."
Among the marchers was Leslie Fields, director of the Club's Environmental Justice & Community Partnerships Program. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime event to be able to salsa up Fifth Avenue," says Fields. "There was music everywhere." That's Fields below with Negrón.
Here's Fields' account of the day:
June 12 dawned cool and overcast as thousands of people capped off almost a week of activities, events, and galas by participating in the 54th Annual Puerto Rico Day Parade.
The Sierra Club's Puerto Rico Chapter, the Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships (EJCP) Program, and Building Bridges to the Outdoors (BBTO) worked together create a wonderful participatory and unique opportunity to heighten the visibility of the Sierra Club's youngest and most dynamic chapter to the mainland United States.
More Americans of Puerto Rican descent reside in the New York/New Jersey area than anywhere else in the nation. The Puerto Rican Day Parade attracted millions of revelers and tens of thousands of participants, including politicians and stakeholders such as Mayor Blumberg, Senator Schumer, state Assemblypersons, and many local luminaries.
The Sierra Club contracted to have a fabulous float created and members dressed up as a manatee, parrot, water creatures and turtles. Over 40 members of the Puerto Rico chapter, including president Orlando Negrón, above, came up from Puerto Rico to march. Other marchers included Robin Mann, president of the Sierra Club national board, Rafael Fantuzzi, of the Puerto Rico Coalition and the National Latino Climate Change Coalition (NLCCC) and Leslie Fields, the national director of EJCP, based in Washington, D.C.
Signs and other turtle cut-outs were created along with matching Sierra Club Puerto Rico green t-shirts to complement the banners and placards. Earlier that week, he Sierra Club sponsored a poetry and spoken word event at the world-famous Nuyorican Poets Café. Sierra Club board member Aaron Mair came down from Albany, NY, to lend his support alongside a packed crowd that included colleagues from UPROSE, the oldest Puerto Rican environmental justice organization in New York City.
On the day of the parade, we were staged with our float on W. 44th St. with many other floats (including an UPROSE biodiesel bus) and Casa Pueblo, another environmental partner organization from Puerto Rico. Then the salsa music rang out and we started marching and salsaing down W. 44th St and turned left on 5th Avenue! Jorge Benitez (below) of Ecoquids provided the costumes we used on the float.
We were dancing, jumping, cheering to and with the crowd and of course salsaing down historic 5th Avenue. We passed St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Archbishop was out sitting in his chair (with his coterie and police protection) like it was his front porch. They allowed children to approach him to take pictures and when we came along he jumped and started waving.
We passed the Plaza Hotel where 5th Avenue started to narrow along Central Park. That stretch was cool and green and lovely. It felt like we were in Puerto Rico as the breezes enveloped us along with the undulating music and continual cheering. Our marchers were of all ages: grandmothers brought their grandchildren; young people skipped around passing out Sierra Club bags and flyers to the enthusiastic crowd.
We approached the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 80th Street and the next thing we knew we were detoured to 81st St and then we were done! The marchers reconnoitered for pictures and a repast at a local pub, where we celebrated our successful event. The Sierra Club's Best Intern Kokei Otosi was also in attendance for the whole time and she recorded the whole event as well.
Kudos to Camilla Feibelman (of EJCP) , Orlando Negrón, Angel Sosa, recent past president of the Puerto Rico Chapter, Rafael Fantuzzi and the Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. for the great collaboration and a fantastic event! A great time was had by all and the Sierra Club's brands (national and Puerto Rico) were seen and appreciated by millions of enthusiastic viewers in NYC and televised in Puerto Rico.
Photos by Jorge Benitez, Carla Cavina, Jon Ullman, Lourdes Cruz, Jorge Diaz, and Cano Menendez.