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Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrations shaped by hurricane recovery efforts

The 61st annual parade, themed “One People, Many Voices,” will honor New Yorkers and groups who played key roles in relief efforts on the island.

The 61st annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade

The 61st annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade will be a show of solidarity in light of ongoing Hurricane Maria recovery efforts on the island. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Puerto Ricans in New York City aren’t letting months of slow-going hurricane relief efforts rain on this weekend’s parade.

Rather, they plan to use the Fifth Avenue march as a show of solidarity and strength.

“It is celebratory, but there is a different tone,” said Louis Maldonado, chair of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade’s board. “We want to frame everything the appropriate way and keep the dialogue about the island fresh.”

Maldonado said he and other organizers worked for months to revamp the parade following Hurricane Maria, and tailored a celebration that mixed fun with reflection. The 61st annual parade — themed “One People, Many Voices” — will honor several New Yorkers and groups who played key roles in recovery efforts on the island.

Honorees include CBS News reporter David Begnaud, who will be named “Campeón Puertorriqueño,” which translates to “Puerto Rican Champion,” for his extensive coverage; former Mets and Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran, who will be named “Athlete of the Year” for raising over $1.5 million for Maria recovery; and the Hispanic Federation.

“What we can do in a celebratory manner is to honor those who really stepped up,” Maldonado said.

At the same time, paradegoers say they will make sure the city and country don’t forget how much work is yet to be done on the island. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said frustrations over the federal government’s handling of the storm reached a new level last week after a Harvard University study found that at least 4,645 were killed as a result of Maria, a large discrepancy from the federal government’s estimate of 64 fatalities.

He said many revelers are planning to wear black T-shirts emblazoned with “4,645” and carry signs to raise awareness.

“This is not business as usual,” he said. “This has to be about letting the people know Puerto Ricans are Americans, and they are dying and the country has a responsibility to do more.”

Luis Garden Acosta, president of the Williamsburg nonprofit El Puente, said turning the parade into a rally would be a good step forward for keeping the attention on the island’s plight. It is estimated that 1.5 million people will attend the parade this year, according to organizers, and the celebration’s reputation has made it one of the most watched events by Puerto Ricans around the world, according to Garden.

“The National Puerto Rican Day Parade is broadcasting to the world who we are and what our values are,” he said.

Diaz added that the parade’s music, dancing and floats will be a part of that rallying cry. Puerto Ricans have always turned to art to express themselves and emotions during times of crisis.

“That’s how we are as a people,” Diaz said. “This is how we deal with emergencies and tragedy. It’s our outlet.”

Puerto Rican Day Parade details

WHEN

Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. It will air live on WABC7 and stream on the station’s website.

WHERE

Fifth Avenue from 44th to 79th streets

HONOREES

Grand Marshal: Esaí Morales

Madrina: Laura Posada

Padrino: Jorge Posada

Queen: Zuleyka Rivera

Lifetime Achievement: Lucecita Benítez; Iluminado Dávila; Pedro Guzmán; Ismael Miranda; Virginia Sánchez Korrol

Orgullo Puertorriqueño: Victoria Sanabria

Puerto Rican Champion: David Begnaud

Athlete of the Year: Carlos Beltrán

Ambassadors: Richard Colón; Jackie Guerrido; Sunny Hostin; Naiz; Jorge Pabón; Tats Cru; Julio Gaby Acevedo; Alan Villafaña; Ricardo Villarini; Johnny Bliss; Michael Stuart

Rising Stars: Christopher Rivera; Sebastián Rosado

Special Recognition: Maribel Delgado; Fabiola Méndez; Luis Sanz; Manny Trinidad; Cristian Nieves

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