When the Adelante Association announced the 46th annual Hispanic Day Parade was cancelled due to lack of funds, community groups stepped in to re-organize the event.
The cancellation of annual community events throughout Long Island, including Brentwood’s Hispanic Parade and Go 4th on the Bay fireworks display, is a stark reminder that the local economy still has a long recovery ahead. But in some cases, these cancellations have sparked unparalleled levels of civic engagement.
Residents of Brentwood were shocked and saddened to hear that the annual Adelante Association of Suffolk County’s Hispanic Parade, the largest cultural celebration on Long Island which annually attracts upwards of 30,000 spectators (although last year the estimate was closer to 50,000) was cancelled this year.
The parade was originally a celebration of the Latin American culture, but as the Puerto Rican community in Brentwood continued to grow, many came to recognize the parade as a celebration of Puerto Rican heritage and traditions. In recent years a greater variety of hispanic groups from across Long Island have joined the parade, giving the event a wider cultural focus. Last week Adelante director Miriam M. E. Garcia has said that 45-year tradition of hosting the parade in Brentwood would be disrupted due to a combination of lost corporate sponsorships and reduced state and county funding, bringing the group’s budget down by half a million dollars this year. Their 2011 financial records indicate that the group spent $20,000 more last year than they brought in.
The cancellation sparked a huge response from Brentwood residents and members of the hispanic community throughout Suffolk County. Wilfredo Gonzales, a Puerto Rican resident of Brentwood, was brought to tears when asked what the parade meant to him. “I don’t get to go to Puerto Rico every day -- I live here, I was born here, I’m American, but for me this is the one day to celebrate my culture,” Gonzales said, adding that when he learned the parade was cancelled he had to tell his relatives in Florida, Connecticut and Bushwick not to bother making travel plans.
Assemblyman Phil Ramos, a democrat representing the 6th District which includes Brentwood, Central Islip, Islip and Bay Shore, immediately began looking for other community organizations that could re-organize the parade. Teatro Yerbabruja, an experimental dance organization in Central Islip, has committed to organize the parade for the next five years, and is working to create a parade committee. The group’s director, Magarita Espada, said that the parade “goes perfectly with our mission to support cultural events.”
“Together, we are sending a clear and powerful message that we will not allow tough times to take away from our community’s great treasures,” Espada said in a statement.
At a press conference at Ross Park in Brentwood, officials and local representatives gathered to formally announce that the parade would go on, albeit at a later-than-usual date. The parade, normally held in early June, will be held on July 22 in order to give organizers time to pull it all together.
Madelyn Lugo, president of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc. which organizes the parade in New York City, made a statement in support of the community’s efforts to restore the parade. “As the current economy continues to threaten Puerto Rican cultural cultural events across the nation, the community in Suffolk County has demonstrated its strength and resilience by taking action and mobilizing to obtain the necessary resources to preserve this 46-year-old tradition,” Lugo said, noting that Brentwood is home to the largest population of Puerto Ricans outside of the five boroughs.
“I call on other communities in danger of losing cultural programming during this tough economy to follow in Brentwood’s example and organize to preserve their cultural legacy and institutions,” Lugo’s statement continues The group has offered its help is formalizing the logistics of the parade and attracting more participants.
Rene Ortiz, a representative of LEEP (Leadership Toward Empowerment for Education) and a local resident said, “There is no better organization to take the lead than this cultural arts organization. I’m so excited because we get to keep the parade and make it even better.”
The Adelante Association has said that it intends to organize the parade in the future, and the group is still invited to play a role in this year’s parade. Assemblyman Ramos announced that the theme of this year’s parade is to honor local hispanic community pioneers, including the Adelante Association which has been providing services to Suffolk County residents since 1966.
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