By Sarita Dan

Summer is parade season in New York City. These weekend marches, while annoying from a traffic perspective, can provide an instant culture fix since they’re often thrown in honor of one of our city’s many ethnic groups. Running the gamut from pure commemoration to exalted religious traditions, New York City’s parades are a fascinating peak into the traditions of various peoples.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade, held annually on the second Sunday in June, is one such example of a unique, vibrant cultural display. On the day of the parade, walking a few blocks to position oneself on the sidelines of Fifth Avenue feels more like the four-hour flight from La Guardia to San Juan. The streets are that crowded. Puerto Ricans from across the city—around the country, even—flock to Manhattan to partake in this raucous love fest. The sea of red, white and blue drowning the city isn’t an ode to the U.S., but rather a nod to our Caribbean cousin.

The Puerto Rican Day Parade was born out of the necessity to demonstrate our appreciation for the small nation’s achievements. Today, the festival is the city’s largest and the colossal street festivities are imbued with such intense pride that any outsider is likely to wish they were Puerto Rican. The U.S. is a country in which many ethnic groups often try to blend in, but the Puerto Rican community tends to fly in the face of assimilation. A deep sense of ethnic loyalty is evident every day on the Caribbean island, and in the actions of Puerto Rican immigrants across the five boroughs.

The vast mix of races within Puerto Rico inform a culture replete with intriguing contrasts. But there’s a common thread between Puerto Ricans residing on the Caribbean island and those dwelling in America: A deep love for their small island nation that manifests in loyalty to their folklore, traditions and way of life. Music, food, family and pride are integral aspects of the Puerto Rican style, and all four abound at the annual celebration in New York.

Arguably, attending the Puerto Rican Day Parade rivals a trip to Puerto Rico in terms of cultural immersion. Within the width of one city avenue, over 80,000 Puerto Ricans march and more than three million revelers crowd the streets in sum. Festive music blares from glitzy bejeweled floats and traditional celebratory foods are ubiquitous. But most of all, it’s the national pride of the families gathered that’s impossible to miss.

Featured Image Courtesy of CBS

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