The Puerto Rican Day parade made its way through the streets of Hartford this past Saturday. With traditional live music from the island and colorful floats, the parade honored the pandemic’s essential workers and first responders. Organizers also came with a clear message: “Let’s get the Latino community vaccinated!”
Though the celebration was shorter than usual, it was not without enthusiasm. Several hundred people waved flags and blasted music, and the joy was contagious. The parade started from Pope Park and made its way to the final destination at Parkville Market, where people could get a COVID-19 vaccine in the parking lot.
The event was organized by the Connecticut Institute for Community Development (CICD). Organizer Sammy Vega said 2020 was tough with the parade being canceled. But this year they did something different.
“Instead of people coming to us, we came to the people, we came to the neighborhood. At the float we had teachers, police officers and firefighters. It was very emotional,” said Vega.
Shakira Perez was honored as Hartford’s 2020 teacher of the year. Perez said she was excited that teachers were included in the tribute.
“It really feels good because we were also in the trenches,” said Perez. “Having this [event] even on a smaller scale, having this caravan and this festival, and letting the world know we’re starting to open up and it’s OK to come outside ... if you’re vaccinated.”
Miss Puerto Rico, Genevie Bermudez, 17, said she was proud to celebrate her culture.
“This is a way of showing that no matter what, we’re still united and make the best out of the situation we’re in,” said Bermudez.
She and Miss Puerto Rico Pre-Teen, Tania Trinidad, 15, wore gowns and tiaras and waved, greeting onlookers on one of the floats.
“We’re using our culture to celebrate all of the essential workers who continued working during the pandemic and remain united,” said Trinidad.
Edser Gonzalez drove with his family from New Haven to secure a spot on the busiest intersection of the parade. He had expected more people, only to find out the celebration was not at full capacity as in previous years.
“It was all right for the first parade of the year since COVID. We’re out here, and it will be better next year,” said Gonzalez, who left hopeful that the event will be back in full force in 2022.