Revelers flocked to Sixth Avenue in midtown on Sunday to celebrate Dominican culture and heritage at the 37th annual Dominican Day Parade.
The crowds began congregating as the parade stepped off around noon and continued to swell as the celebration kicked into high gear, with attendees decked out in Dominican colors. Nearly every attendee had a Dominican flag to wave as the procession made its way from 35th Street to 56th throughout a sunny afternoon.
“It’s been great, it’s perfect weather,” said Sergio Marmol, 44, who has been a frequent attendee of the parade over the years. “The music, the people, everything has been great.”
Many of the thousands of revelers were draped with Dominican Republic flags or donned bandannas fashioned from flags. Along the parade route, where brightly costumed dancers made their way up Sixth Avenue and floats blared traditional Dominican music, attendees broke into dance. Some had traveled from elsewhere to New York City to witness the display and celebrate Dominican culture, customs and heritage.
“I’m having a great time,” said Ericka Mejia, 22, who came from Jersey City with a friend, wearing a flag bandanna around her head. “I love the music — all different types of music.”
Mejia said she and her friend had danced all up and down the parade route.
“We dance everywhere,” she said. “Everywhere we go, we stop and we dance.”
The colorful celebration each year features over 10,000 marchers, according to the official event website. But it’s more than just a party. It is held on the second Sunday of August to coincide with the start of the Dominican Restoration War, in which the Dominican Republic would go on to win freedom from Spain in 1865.
The organizers, Dominican Day Parade, Inc., also hold an annual gala that raises scholarship money for students of Dominican descent. The organization awarded a whopping $200,000 in scholarship funds to college and postgraduate students this year.
Sunday’s parade coincides with the grand opening of a Dominican cultural and education center in Washington Heights. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, on the morning of the parade, announced the opening of the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation Community Space within the George Washington Bridge bus station.
The space will be managed by the Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation, a local organization that has for years provided resources for underfunded students and artists. The new center will hold educational workshops, art exhibits, readings and more.
“I am grateful and honored that the Foundation will manage this marvelous community space that will support a community that has struggled for years to get its own space to develop educational and cultural programs,” said Laura Acosta, the foundation’s co-founder and executive director, in a statement.
Washington Heights, along with Inwood, is home to the “Little Dominican Republic,” a cultural designation made official last year to honor the contributions of the Dominican population in upper Manhattan.