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Thousands flock to Fifth Avenue to celebrate Puerto Rican Day

Spectators line 5th Avenue during the 58th annual

Spectators line 5th Avenue during the 58th annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in Manhattan on June 14, 2015. The annual parade celebrates Puerto Rican heritage and culture. It is one of the largest parades in New York City. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A euphoric celebration of Puerto Rican heritage along Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on Sunday was also a nod to the island's strong sense of pride and identity, revelers at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade said.

Dancers wearing traditional Spanish costumes, trucks blasting salsa and reggaeton music, sports cars bearing beauty queens and elected officials both local and representing Puerto Rico were cheered by 35 blocks of celebrants waving flags and blowing air horns. Organizers estimated 2 million people were in attendance.

"We love our island, that's what it is," Sonia Rodriguez, 54, of Copiague, said of why such massive crowds gather each year.

Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said he felt at home at the parade.

"Puerto Ricans feel Puerto Rican wherever they go, and we are so proud of it," he said.

"Que bonita bandera, es la bandera Puertorriquena," the crowd sang over and over again, of the beauty of the Puerto Rican flag.

The icon adorned sunglasses, shirts, dresses, straw hats, pendants and even boxing gloves worn along the parade route.

Rodriguez brought her daughter and granddaughter -- Jennifer Lopez, 27, and Adamaris Velazquez, 8, both also of Copiague -- to the parade. The three generations of women hooted and sang with the procession.

Rodriguez said she had been attending the parade -- now in its 58th year -- since she was a child. Following in that tradition, Adamaris said she loved "mostly everything" about the festivities.

"I love the music and the dancing and the dressing up," she said. "And plus, I love that people have pride and are so happy to be here."

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the city's highest-ranking official of Puerto Rican heritage, marched at the beginning of the parade. Mayor Bill de Blasio also was there to celebrate.

"This is a community that over the last century has been one of the foundations of this city," de Blasio said of Puerto Ricans.

New York City is home to the largest Puerto Rican community in the United States, with about 720,000 residents of Puerto Rican descent.


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