The controversy over the New York National Puerto Rican Parade, explained

by | May 31, 2017 | History | Comments

Since 1958 the National Puerto Rican Day Parade has graced the streets of 5th Avenue in Manhattan with nearly two million spectators and a multitude of additional events around the city. The parade draws in people to come together to celebrate the people of Puerto Rico and of Puerto Rican heritage. It is a fun event meant to bring citizens  together, however the parade this year and the events surrounding it have come under fire due to the parade honoring Oscar Lopez Rivera as a National Freedom Hero.

Oscar Lopez Rivera is a leader of the Armed Forces of Liberation, a group recognized by the FBI as a terrorist organization. It is dedicated to the complete independence of Puerto Rico, though it advocated the idea through more than 120 bomb attacks that killed several people in the 1970’s and 80’s. Lopez Rivera had been in jail for 35 years but had his prison sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama. Due to the parade’s endorsement of Lopez Rivera, many big name sponsors have pulled out of the parade: names like Goya, Jet Blue, and Coca Cola. Many of them have redirected funds from the parade into scholarship funds making it clear that while the companies want to promote the idea of cultural identity, they won’t risk supporting a controversial figure.

While parade organizers admit that Rivera is a controversial figure, there are no immediate plans to remove him from the parade, as they understand why some sponsors have pulled out of the parade. Rivera seems to be a divisive force through the community, though members of the New York City Council sent a letter supporting the decision to honor Rivera. Additionally, Mayor Bill De Blasio still plans to march in the Parade.

While the sponsors split from the parade, the split of reactions to Oscar Lopez Rivera has been varied across the board. Most people are focusing on the unity of the parade and they say that he’s a Puerto Rican fighting for the identity and that it’s encouraging. Others like the Veterans that will march in the parade say that it’s wrong and that it’s two faced to support Lopez Rivera and try and honor veterans. Many of the people that survived the bombing are also upset with the choice as well, especially since he is being hailed as a freedom hero. They see the whole display as appalling. They are disgusted that the parade would honor someone who organized terrorist attacks so close to the recent bombings. Even then some are indifferent to him, they have no concept of the bombings or the history saying that they grew here (in New York) and they just don’t have an opinion. Wherever the people fall it is clear that this decision has brought a lot of attention to the parade this year.

The parade is scheduled to proceed as planned with Lopez Rivera as the honoree on June 11, 2017. Though some have pulled out, the nearly sixty year old tradition will continue and the people who have come to celebrate the Puerto Rican heritage will find their places to do so whether it is on 5th avenue or right in their own neighborhoods and cities.