New York’s Dominican Community Parades Across Upper Manhattan

Dominican-Americans take to the streets, sporting the Dominican colors of red, white and blue (Photo by Louric Rankine)
Dominican-Americans take to the streets, sporting the Dominican colors of red, white and blue (Photo by Louric Rankine)

Dominican New Yorkers were out in full force yesterday, taking part in an extravagant parade to celebrate their heritage.

The 37th annual Dominican Day Parade kicked off yesterday at noon in Inwood. For four hours, tens of thousands of Dominicans and their allies took over the streets, playing merengue and bachata music and waving Dominican flags. The parade stretched from West 35th to West 56th Street along Sixth Avenue.

The event was founded in 1982 by Dominican Day Parade, Inc., an organization dedicated to celebrating Dominican culture in the United States. Alongside the parade, the foundation hosts an annual gala and luncheon celebrating Dominican pioneers in different industries.

Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights, Sugar Hill) said that Dominican New Yorkers – of which there are more than 800,000 – deserve recognition for their contributions to the state.

“This is our voice, and since its conception, the Dominican Day parade has provided a platform for our pride, expression, determination and strength,” he said. Espaillat himself is a proud Dominican-American and the first undocumented immigrant to serve in congress.

The parade is held on the second Sunday of August in reverence for the beginning of La Guerra de Restauración, or “Restoration War”. On Aug. 16th, 1863, Dominican military general Gregorio Luperón led an army to end Spanish authority in the Dominican Republic.

The “diablo cojuelo” mask is designed to caricature the Dominicans’ Spanish oppressors. (Photo by Louric Rankine)

To celebrate their victory over the Spanish conquistadors, some of the marchers sported a monstrous carnival mask known as diablo cojuelo, or “limping devil”. The mask has exaggerated facial features like bulging eyes and teeth, intended to imitate and mock the Spanish medieval knights.

Espaillat hopes that the parade, which serves as a reminder of the Dominican revolutionaries’ bravery, will inspire our next generation of Dominican leaders.

“The event is a celebration of Dominican culture and of the examples we are setting for all who are watching, and more importantly, for the next generation of leaders,” said Espaillat. “Our youth are our future and it remains critical they know and fully understand the roots that run deep throughout our culture and heritage. I look forward to participating in this year’s event and supporting the Dominican Day celebration in the coming years.”

Chief Terence Monahan, of the New York Police Department, took to twitter to comment, “Proud to march with fellow cops today as they celebrate their heritage in the Dominican Day Parade! Thank you to all of the Finest who worked to ensure a safe day for the thousands of parade goers.”

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