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Puerto Rican Day Parade raises awareness of serious issues... (1623 hits)

How do you throw a celebration in the midst of a financial crisis?

According to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade board, by educating a community and standing together with the island of Puerto Rico.

For three years in a row, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) has continued to increase awareness amongst the Puerto Rican community on issues facing both the island and all members of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

“The emphasis this year is on mobilizing and engaging Puerto Ricans around the fiscal and humanitarian crisis that’s occurring,” says National Puerto Rican Day Parade Board Chairperson Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez.

“We want to engage every Puerto Rican who is registered to vote now and to engage all Puerto Ricans who are eligible to vote, to get registered,” she adds.

A coalition consisting of the NPRDP, the Hispanic Federation, El Centro for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and groups in Florida, Chicago and Philadelphia are working together on voter education and voter registration initiatives.

In regards to the highly publicized troubles of Puerto Rico, what is widely known is that the island has overspent and mismanaged its finances. But as Cortez-Vazquez points out, this makes Puerto Rico no different than many U.S. states and cities that have faced similar situations.

“This is not unusual — what is unusual is how uninformed people are in this whole dialogue around our fiscal crisis. The mere fact that Puerto Ricans are citizens and that we have fought in every war since 1917; the fact that we have produced some of the best engineers globally — the fact that none of this stuff is known,” Cortes-Vazquez says.

The NPRDP plans to showcase some of that talent. Puerto Rican high school students Francisco Prokauer-Valerio, winner of the Mathematics Olympics in Thailand, and Danitza Vazquez, international chess champion, will be honored as rising stars in S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

“We are so proud to honor these students that did amazing, globally recognized work,” says Cortez-Vazquez.

“That’s the Puerto Rico that most people don’t know about — that’s the Puerto Rico that a lot of Puerto Ricans stateside don’t know about — so we have to constantly tell each other.”

The parade will also celebrate marriage equality on the island.

“Puerto Rico, as a society, has been pretty homophobic publicly. But the fact that Puerto Rico passed marriage equality shortly after New York was monumental,” she says.

Some recurring parade themes will involve the release of political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, currently serving his 35th year of incarceration, and the celebration of NPRDP’s scholarship recipients.

For the second year in a row, the organization has doubled the number of scholarship awards given in the previous year — going from 15 to 30 to 60 over the past three years.

“We have a commitment of 100 (scholarships) by 2017, and that, to me, is amazing,” Cortes-Vazquez says.

“These kids are going to all different kind of schools — so many are into the sciences. We know that education is the economic equalizer.”

Thanks to their new media partner WABC-TV, the parade will now be shown in a variety of cities in the greater New York area as well as in Orlando, Fla.

In addition, for the first time ever, four hours of the parade will be televised in Puerto Rico.

With so many eyes on Puerto Rico at the moment, and the number of out-of-state Puerto Ricans able to tune in this year, this may be one of the biggest platforms the new parade administration has had since taking over the annual event

Cortes-Vazquez also says spectators should expect visual representations of solidarity with the island.

“You will see that throughout the parade,” she says. “We have a few surprises that will make sure the message is very strong. We are one people, 8 million strong, regardless of where we reside.

“This is an opportunity to show the strength of this population — we know that we can make a difference, with our vote.”
Posted By: Will Moss
Friday, June 10th 2016 at 3:59PM
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