The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Dilemma
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Politics and Activism

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Dilemma

The conversation that we all should be having about our beloved Puerto Rico.

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The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Dilemma
New York Latin Culture

This Sunday, the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade will take place along Fifth Avenue in New York City, home to over 700,000 Puerto Ricans. The parade is the largest national event that celebrates the unique pride and culture of Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States with about 3.5 million citizens (as of 2015).

Rich in culture and heavily political, tension among Puerto Ricans has risen as the National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) had chosen to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican militant and former leader of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation, FALN). In 1975, the group claimed responsibility for the bombing of Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan, killing four people and injuring many others. Lopez Rivera was then arrested in 1981 for charges unrelated to the bombing. This year, President Barack Obama commuted his sentence, freeing Lopez Rivera after 36 years. With this, he is seen as a hero to many Puerto Rican nationalists hoping to receive independence from the United States after the nation has caused years of complications in the economy and continuous government corruption, showing little to no regard for the citizens living on the island.

As living conditions in Puerto Rico have worsened, the government has failed to ameliorate this issue, which has, in turn, raised the anti-American sentiment among Puerto Rican nationalists. Given this, the NPRDP organizers saw it fit to honor Lopez Rivera at the parade. The issue, however, is the controversy surrounding his name. Claiming responsibility for a terrorist attack which killed innocent civilians has given Lopez Rivera the title of ‘terrorist’ to many, including many Puerto Ricans. With this, long-time partner and sponsor Goya Foods pulled their sponsorship of the parade last month. In addition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Univision have decided to not support the parade for the same reason.

As a result, Lopez Rivera has stepped down as the honoree.

The question now is: “Now what?”

One main point to understand is the struggle the island currently faces with its status in relation to the United States. Not a federal state, however a commonwealth, Puerto Rico faces incredible debt and a crippling economy. With this crippling economy, the Commonwealth was forced to close nearly 200 public schools last month. The economic situation in Puerto Rico seems to be at a steadily rapid decline and shows no signs of improving. Not even this is enough to put it into the perspective of those living on the island, which can make it a bit difficult to understand the importance Lopez Rivera and the FALN have to these nationalists and citizens. Many forget that the citizens of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States. It is likely that this issue will be forgotten soon after Sunday’s parade by those unaffected but it is incredibly important to try and understand the continuous relevance of the issue.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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