Puerto Rican People’s Parade celebrates its 30th anniversary

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At two o’clock, on Saturday, June 14, Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the People’s Parade along “La Division.”

Before 1978, when the Humboldt Park Puerto Rican community first gathered to celebrate the People’s Parade, Chicago Boricuas traveled downtown to attend the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. However, the dislocation of the city’s parade from where Puerto Ricans lived motivated the Humboldt Park residents to create their own parade, thus taking ownership of their cultural expression, according to PRCC executive director, Jóse E. López.

López also noted that the People’s Parade was formed to have an event that addressed the social issues of the Puerto Rican community. “We could do parades, but unless they spoke to our reality, they become sterile.”

The issues that affect this community are manifested in the selected themes of each People’s Parade as well as the social message of the various floats. The first parade addressed police brutality in the community, which had been tragically highlighted by the killing of two Puerto Rican youths by Chicago police officers during this period. The mother of one of these two men, Virginia Cruz, who recently passed, will be honored at this year’s People’s Parade.

“Aesthetics as resistance – the act of community building” is the theme of this year’s People’s Parade. The theme relates to the Humboldt Park communities’ resistance to displacement through gentrification, according to parade coordinator, Leony Calderón.

Calderón, who also works at the PRCC’s Vida/SIDA, an AIDS education and prevention Program, said the average cost of putting together the parade is about $13,000. The funding for the parade comes primarily from the sale of advertisements, which have been printed in La Voz each year, for the past three years and in a separate ad book previously.

This is Calderón’s seventh year as parade coordinator, a position for which she is not paid but does as a volunteer. Her involvement in organizing the parade began when she served on its committee, under the leadership of, then parade coordinator, Josefina Rodríguez.

The first time Calderón attended the People’s Parade was as a high school junior at Latino Youth, an alternative high school located nearby the Pilsen area. Her advisor at the time, Roberto Sanabria, a current PRCC board member, told Calderón about the parade. She remembered the impression a large crowd of Puerto Ricans had on her.

Despite the challenges that Calderón faces in putting together this important community event, she said the final product is worth it.

“The day of the parade … when we blow the whistle and say ‘Let’s start,’ that’s the joy,” Calderón said. “That’s really why I do it.”