New Yorkers of all stripes will unite this Sunday when the Hispanic Columbus Day Parade marches up Fifth Avenue.
The annual parade, now in its 51st year, celebrates the solidarity among the city's Hispanic population, which numbers more than 2.4 million people. Thousands of spectators across the tri-state area are expected to attend.
Parade participants will represent Spanish-speaking countries from Central and South America, as well as Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Spain, with colorful floats, traditional dance, music and more. Marchers include Hispanic groups and associations, including members of the NYPD, FDNY and other city departments.
Joe Maldonado of Ozone Park has been marching in the parade since 1970. President of the Department of Sanitation's Hispanic Society, he will be joined by dozens of members from the organization.
"I always look forward to representing my nationality," said Maldonado, 68, who is of Puerto Rican descent. "It's a very colorful parade. Every country, they all come in their native clothes."
The parade can also be a conversation starter, he said.
"It's very educational," said Maldonado. "You can ask different questions about the food, country, dialects, customs."
Each year, Maldonado and his organization march in the Columbus Hispanic Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Day Parade, followed by dinner at El Nuevo Caridad in East Harlem.
The parade falls near the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration that runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
This year's parade will feature marshals representing each country, and Miss Universe Paulina Vega, of Columbia, will be a special guest.
"I am proud to be a Colombian and take part in this year's parade," said Vega, who also participated in the Columbian Day Parade in New York City in July. "My culture is very special to me and I am happy for the opportunity to share my heritage and Latin pride with the world on this special day here in New York City."
The Hispanic Columbus Day Parade is Sunday from noon-5 p.m. along Fifth Avenue from 44th to 67th streets.