Buffalo, NY — It was a day filled with pride for the Puerto Rican & Hispanic community in the city, as thousands of people attended the Puerto Rican & Hispanic Day Parade and Festival to celebrate their heritage and Diversity.
The festival kicked off with its 17thAnnual parade with hundreds of colorful floats, Thousands of people dancing and celebrating as they slowly made their way along Avenida San Juan, draped in their counties flags with music playing from the musicians on the floats.
Participants waved to those watching from sidewalks, and tossed out pieces of candy for children to grab, showing big smiles despite the unbearable heat.
Nearly every parade goer could be seen sporting clothing with his or her counties native colors.
Buffalo resident Dee Santos was dressed in a festive dress she got from Puerto Rico, accompanied by red, white and blue flowers tightly tucked into her hair. Her outfit matched her enthusiasm about the day.
"This is my soul," she said. "This is my heart."
Santos is proudly 100% Puerto Rican, and moved to the U.S. in the '80s. She characterized herself as a community leader who represents and supports people from all backgrounds.
"I will always represent when other people are celebrating. I'm there to support them," she said.
Santos' favorite part of the parade — aside from the music that kept her dancing through its entirety — was the sense of unity from everyone coming together and sharing the same reason to celebrate.
Hosted by The Puerto Rican & Hispanic Day Parade, the day was about moving forward “PALANTE”, culture and contributions, said committee member Yolanda Martinez. In talking about the importance of the day, Martinez touched on the history of Puerto Rico and the U.S.
A complicated background with the country they now call home, the former Spanish territory finally got a legal standing in the U.S. system in 1917. That of course followed the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. invaded Puerto Rico; and the Treaty of Paris in 1898, when the war ended and Spain ceded the territory to the U.S.
Just before the United States entered World War I, Puerto Ricans were granted citizenship to the U.S.
Now, Puerto Ricans in Buffalo are celebrating how far they have come, and how much they have contributed to America. From sports, to art, and large numbers in the armed forces, Martinez said they have given a lot to the country they are glad to be a part of.
She said the day is not political, but about "happily celebrating heritage, culture and diversity.
As the parade neared its end, attendees gathered in LaSalle Park to continue the celebration with food, drinks and live music.
Festivities continue until Sunday evening.