Thousands revel at Dominican parade in Paterson
PATERSON – Thousands packed a 20-block stretch of Park Avenue on Sunday to cheer for one of the city’s largest communities at the 27th annual Dominican Day Parade.
Families waved flags and danced on the sidelines as bands blasted merengue and reggaeton beats from parade floats while dancers in vibrant masks and costumes modeled after folkloric devils cracked whips on pavement.
Junior Rosario’s three children were spellbound by the vibrant scenes.
“This puts them in contact with their culture, with the music and the people,” said Rosario, 46, of Paterson. “Every year they ask me, ‘When is the parade?’ Even though they’re born and raised here, I don’t want to pull them apart from their culture.”
For the community, the annual Dominican Day Parade is more than a celebration; it is also a display of pride for the culture and contributions that Dominicans have made in Paterson since they began settling in the city in large numbers five decades ago.
The Dominican diaspora began in the 1960s amid political instability that followed the assassination of the ruling dictator, Rafael Trujillo, and U.S. military intervention in the island nation.
Paterson became a prime destination as family and friends followed one another to the growing city, finding comfort in neighborhoods where Dominicans had bought homes, opened businesses and provided newcomers with support.
In 2010, the census counted nearly 28,000 people of Dominican ancestry in the city. Some Latino groups believe the population is higher, saying some don’t respond to census surveys because they fear revealing undocumented status or because they aren’t aware of the importance of the census.
Elsa Mantilla, president of the organization that runs the parade, the Dominican State Parade and Festival of New Jersey, said the parade showed Dominicans’ strength in numbers in the city, but also displayed unity as it brought together different ethnic groups from across the area.
“We are keeping our tradition and our culture here,” she said. “It’s very important not only for Dominicans, but for everybody who lives here.
“I believe if you walk around here in Paterson, you can see most of the businesses here belong to the Dominican community,” Mantilla added.
Mantilla was joined by other parade officials and the grand marshal, Hanoi Sanchez, mayor of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic, at the front of the long line of floats and marchers.
This year, cash-strapped Paterson weighed ending a subsidy for the Dominican parade and festival, but opted not to, saying the event was a boon to local businesses. City officials have calculated that the parade and festival, which organizers say attract 20,000 people, costs about $160,000 worth of police and public works overtime.
On Sunday, there was more police presence at the front of the parade because of concern over explosions in Seaside Park and Manhattan on Saturday, said Joel Ramirez, a spokesman for the parade organization.
“In the past, we really didn’t have officers walking with us directly in the front leading with the parade,” Ramirez said. “But this time we actually had police officers parading with us in motorcycles and that was due to the whole New York situation.
“We have two ambassadors, a counsel general, the mayor of Jersey City, so you can imagine we did have a little more concern.”
Ramirez said it was sad that organizers had to consider such a scenario. But, he added, “we’re not going to stop using our rights to celebrate the diversity of this country because terrorists want to act irrationally.”
To the revelers, who turned the neighborhood into what seemed like a giant block party, with front lawn barbecues and dancing in the streets, the frightening incidents in Manhattan and Seaside Park seemed far removed.
Maria Rosa, 25, of the Bronx sat in a lawn chair outside her relatives’ parade-front home, where they ate, danced and watched the parade. “It’s bringing everyone together – the culture, the fun, the feeling of family,” Rosa said.
Hector Sanchez, 25, of Paterson waved to friends while wearing the Dominican flag around his neck like a cape. “It’s a good way to feel like you’re home away from home,” Sanchez said.
Sep 19, 2016
Category: DR News |