Latino Grand Marshals … Their Legacy, Their Story

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By Raquel Serrano

Story Detail
Puerto Rican Parade Grand Marshals, Ms. Ida Pérez and Mr. Juan Padilla.
A Parade Grand Marshall is the ceremonial title for a person leading a procession of people. It is characterized by the marchers being in costume, dancers, people from various organizations representing proudly, and floats organized along a street. It is an honor to be a Grand Marshal as the person is looked upon with great dignity and respect.

This year the Puerto Rican Parade Committee elected two Grand Marshals, Ms. Ida Pérez and Mr. Juan Padilla. Both have been serving the Hispanic community of Rochester for many years.

Ida Pérez is a life-long resident of Rochester, New York. She is the mother of two young adults and grandmother of a beautiful little girl. During the past 23 years, Ida has worked in the early childhood field as a Pre-school Teacher, Literacy Specialist and currently as the Director for Ibero Early Childhood Services where she serves over 100 children and families. She is a high honors graduate from Roberts Wesleyan College with a bachelors’ degree in Organizational Management and is a National Honor Society Alpha Sigma Lambda Member.

Ida likes to spend her time with friends and family, however she also serves on several committees. She currently serves on the advisory committee for LaVoz, a local bilingual news paper that focuses on Latino issues both in Rochester and nationwide. She has a monthly column where she discusses children issues, help parents understand child development and best practices and encourages parents as their child’s first teacher and best advocate. She is also the chair for the recruitment committee for LaVoz.

She also serves as an advisor for 292-Baby Leadership Council, a broadcasting program from MCC that provides weekly shows with guests that specialized in child development and infants and toddlers issues. For over 7 years Ida has been part of the Early Childhood Education Quality Council and is currently the co-chair of the executive committee which is composed of about 20 local inner-city daycare centers that work together in improving the standards for quality childcare. Ida recently joined the PathStone Board of Directors. She is part of their Executive Board and Head Start Advisor.

Although Ida serves on numerous boards and advisory committees, her involvement with the Puerto Rican Festival has been her passion. She started over 17 years ago as a volunteer for the children’s activities and in 1998 she was elected as a board member. During 2004-2008 she served as Board President. During her presidency, she faced many challenges; however, she was determined to bring this festival forward. One of her primary commitments to the Puerto Rican Festival then and is still today, is to maintain the Música Jíbara as part of entertainment for this event. With her assistance the Puerto Rican Festival has been able to bring folklore legends like La Familia Sanabria, Maribel Delgado, Christian Nieves, Edwin Colón Zayas and his sister Emma, Yomo Torro, Prodigio, and Victoria Sanabria, and the late Mario Hernandez, just to mention a few.

She currently serves as the Travel and Lodge Coordinator and the Liaison for the Miss Puerto Rico of Rochester Cultural Pageant and the Parranda Sub-committee. Sadly but proudly this is her last year volunteering with the Puerto Rican Festival.

Mr. Juan Padilla was born and raised in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico and migrated to Rochester, New York in 1963, following the journey that his father and brother made in 1956. At the time, Rochester’s Black and Hispanic population had grown immensely, drawing an influx of individuals directly from Puerto Rico to find work.

Juan Padilla first became involved in community organization and volunteerism at the time of the 1964 uprising. In 1970, Juan Padilla became a member of Action for a Better Community (ABC), an organization that helped specific districts of Rochester and Monroe County. Padilla volunteered as a neighborhood organizer and began pressuring the organization to hire more Latinos. He ultimately persuaded ABC to hire a Latina social worker and a Latino center director. In the mid 1970s he became executive director of “Wedge”, a war on poverty-funded agency that facilitated community development in the Brown Street neighborhood and had strong ties to ABC.

Padilla served as the original chairperson of the Spanish Health Rights Coalition and founded both the Roberto Clemente Baseball League for Children as well as the Hispanic Business Association. Padilla has also worked with the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, the Housing Council, the Monroe County Affirmative Action Council, the Spanish Action Coalition and Human Services Council of the North West, among many other groups.

From 1979-2002 Padilla served the Rochester City School District’s Bilingual Programs and the Hispanic Parent and Community Relations Department. It was in this capacity that he distinguished himself for his ability to reach into the Spanish speaking communities of Rochester and help new students and families acclimate to the city.

The legacy of these hard working individuals permeates into the streams of social justice, education, sports, health care and cultural traditions. “We felt that Juan has a history, a valuable story that many in the community were not aware of, one instrumental in the development and progress of the Latino community and we also felt that Ida currently carries this history throughout her career” commented Geena Cruz, President of the Puerto Rican Parade of Rochester.

Congratulations to both Juan and Ida on this special recognition! We also congratulate the Puerto Rican Parade Committee for their indomitable spirit and insight when selecting every year’s Grand Marshals. Other recent Grand Marshals have been the late Ivette Salgado and Henry Soublet, Daisy Rivera-Algarin and Saul Maneiro, Felicita Mitrano, Marcos Santiago, Victor Antonetti, Sr., Nancy Padilla, Father Tracy amongst many others.