June 10 is officially National Puerto Rican Day, and it has been celebrated for 61 years. This year, hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators gathered in New York City for the annual parade.
This year’s parade was the first one since Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico in September, giving the celebration special significance to so many. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five, and Hurricane Maria certainly affected that statistic for those living on the island.
According to a Harvard study by independent researchers from the school’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, more than 4,000 people lost their lives to Maria. Many floats displayed the number 4,645, referencing the number of deaths estimated.
“I made sure to be here, especially for this parade,” Nitza, one of the parade attendees, told NBC. “Yes, we’re here celebrating and we’re present saying ‘we need to help.’ Many have forgotten about Puerto Rico.”
The main theme of the parade this year was “One People, Many Voices,” honoring the Puerto Ricans who enrich the culture by working to rebuild and strengthen the island after the destruction of the hurricane. Many other cultural elements from the island’s folkloric culture were references throughout the parade as well. Teachers, law enforcement, and city workers were also honored with the floats in the parade.
“This is a very important parade and a very meaningful parade given the tragedy and the devastation of the homeland,” said Louis Maldonado, National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) Board Chair, at a pre-parade event on Friday.
According to Luis Miranda, the founder of the Hispanic Federation, small businesses in Puerto Rico employ 90% of the island’s workforce. So, the foundation is raising money to help fund this cause. Google is also matching the donations made through their philanthropy page.
“No matter what happens, we’re still Puerto Ricans. We’re going to work and rebuild our island to how it used to be or even better,” Miranda told NBC. “Focusing on small businesses seems like the right next step to continue to rebuild Puerto Rico.”