BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The people of Western New York showed off their Puerto Rican and Hispanic culture at the 20th Annual Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade.
The energy was palpable as floats glided down Niagara Street, which transformed into La Avenida de San Juan on Saturday afternoon. The parade began in Niagara Square, went up Niagara Street to Porter Avenue. Music and dancing was abundant as people from across the region gathered to celebrate.
“We want everybody to come down here this weekend, enjoy our food our music our culture,” Charles Torres, president of the parade, said. “Our community’s been here for many years and its one of the few communities in Buffalo that continues to grow. As you look at our parade and our celebration and you see how it has gotten bigger over the years, its because of the growing population.”
The theme ¡Celebrando Nuestra Comunidad!, meaning “Celebrating Our Community” in English. The weekend-long event features food, music, live entertainment and other family fun activities honoring Hispanic culture in Buffalo.
“There’s a rich history that goes back centuries of Latinos being part of the United States and the experience, whether you are talking about our participation in business, in community, in the armed forces,” Robert Rodriguez, New York Secretary of State, added.
Sec. Rodriguez is a second-generation Puerto Rican from New York City and he represented Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office at the parade.
The Hispanic community is tight-knit in Buffalo, which made the mile-long parade feel intimate for those marching. Co-Grand Marshals Ventura Colon and John Sanabria are Vietnam War Veterans. They are both involved in a variety of committees and organizations within the Hispanic community, including the Western New York Hispanic American Veterans Memorial. Colon is the president and Sanabria is the vice president of that organization.
“Everybody knows everybody. We were going down the street and every place we went everybody was waving at us and calling our names because we know everybody. Buffalo’s Hispanic community is a big family,” Sanabria said.
With Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 through October 15, organizers and leaders say they are proud of their heritage and only want it to grow in Western New York.
“We want to maintain the Puerto Rican and Hispanic cultures in the forefront of the community of Buffalo and Western New York,” Colon continued. “”My message is to understand the different cultures to understand the languages to work together, to respect each other to have a better community.”
While the festival was a celebration, it held a deeper purpose. Organizers hope to educate others about their cultures and bring the city and region closer together.
“We’re all one. We’ve all gone through the same cycle in American history and we just want to be treated equally,” Torres concluded.
Rodriguez noted the diaspora and spread of Puerto Rican and Hispanic culture across New York State. He says this festival is important to showcase the cultures to the community.
“Esto día es para mostrar y compartir nuestro cultura con todo los Neoyorquinos que están en el estado,” Rodriguez said, meaning the parade day is to show and share Hispanic culture to New Yorkers.
The festivities do not stop Saturday. There is live music and entertainment in Niagara Square on Sunday. For more information on the activities, visit their website here.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.