The Puerto Rican Day Parade returned to Philadelphia on Sunday after two years canceled due to the pandemic. Thousands of people marched and rolled down the Ben Franklin Parkway, infusing participants and watchers with a welcome sense of pride.
“It feels amazing,” said a 29-year-old woman named Natalie, who wore a flag that said “No Se Vende” (“Not for Sale”). Explaining that she’d been coming to the parade her whole life, she expressed gratitude that the event was back.
“I know the past few years we were dealing with COVID … Now it’s the time of the year when we come together,” Natalie said. “It’s so important with all that’s going on in Puerto Rico right now, for us to come together.”
Hurricane Fiona recently devastated portions of the island, and working to get help to people there was top of mind for many at the parade, including elected officials in attendance.
Councilmember Mark Squilla said he’d been attending the Puerto Rican Day Parade since 2012, calling it one of his favorite events.
“With the destruction from the hurricane in Puerto Rico and the challenges there, [it’s important] to bring light to that and to also make people proud of their heritage,” Squilla said. “It’s so Important to be able to celebrate the people who do so much for the City of Philadelphia. To celebrate that culture and everything that they give us here in the city.”
Other officials in attendance at the event organized by 60-year-old community nonprofit Concilio included state senators Christine Tartaglione and Sharif Street, Councilmember David Oh, and Maria Quiñones Sánchez — the former City Council member born in Puerto Rico who recently resigned to run for mayor of Philadelphia.
Quiñones Sánchez is working with Squilla and others to put together an operation to gather donations, according to Squilla. The donations will be both monetary and physical items, he said, but only specific things, so supplies don’t go to waste.
“I think that [the parade] brings people together,” Squilla said, “and that not only the Puerto Rican community but everyone in the city should know what the challenges are in Puerto Rico and what we can do to help.”
Natalie, the woman wearing the “No Se Vende” flag, said the parade was symbolic of the resilience of the Puerto Rican community, with people of all ages coming together to rebuild and hold each other up.
“It’s important for us to be able to fly our flags and know that we have support in our community,” Natalie said. “But also to see the strength, is something that’s important.”
Scroll down to view photos from the day of Puerto Rican solidarity in Philadelphia.