NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The nation’s largest Puerto Rican celebration drew an estimated 1 million spectators on Fifth Avenue Sunday.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, it has been 56 years since Puerto Rican leaders in New York first began the annual tradition of putting on a parade on the streets of Manhattan. Today, the celebration has become a stunning and spectacular show, attracting 80,000 marchers.
As WCBS 880′s Jim Smith reported, Fifth Avenue was a sea of Puerto Rican flags, hats, t-shirts and bandannas.
Paradegoers were singing and dancing as the music blasted from the passing floats, while marching bands and dancers entertained the throngs of crowds, Smith reported.
And of course, there were plenty of politicians. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott marched in the parade and shook hands with police officers stationed along the route.
“We are the most diverse city in the world our diversity is our greatest strength, and the Puerto Rican community is an enormous part of that,” said City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn.
Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, who is staging a run for mayor in his second act in American political life, said people at the parade treated him just fine.
“The response has been amazing,” Weiner said. “This is an amazing day in New York cultural life. We’re all Puerto Rican today.”
While the organization overseeing the parade is now being investigated by the New York State Attorney General for its financial practices, none of that cast any apparent clouds on this sunny day in the city.
“It’s an American parade,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Every one of these parades — St. Patrick’s, Columbus Day, Israeli — all of them symbolize America.”
Actress, dancer and singer Chita Rivera was thrilled to the parade’s grand marshal for the first time.
“It means everything to me,” Rivera said. “To me, it’s the cherry on top of the cake for me.”
As 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported, the parade is part of a weekend-long celebration of Puerto Rican pride.
Orlando and his family had already claimed their spot along the parade route at 6 a.m.
“We’re always out here early, we come from Passaic, New Jersey. I want my family to come and have a good time, enjoy the parade and then go back home. I got to go to work later, so I got to have fun,” he told Schuck.
The parade is important to the region’s large Puerto Rican population, Schuck reported. There are 700,000 Puerto Ricans in the five boroughs alone.
But the parade is no longer an exclusively Puerto Rican affair. People from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and other lands around the world also came out as spectators.
The theme for this year’s parade is “Celebrating Your Health.”
The parade proceeded north along Fifth Avenue from 44th Street to 79th Street.
An uproar recently erupted among the Puerto Rican community over a logo of their island flag on a commemorative Coors Light beer can created for the parade.
Coors is a parade sponsor.
Organizers denied the image was meant to represent the Puerto Rican flag or the parade’s logo.
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