Multiple events mark Puerto Rican Day in Phila.

Performers from Esperanza Academy Charter School wear rain-forest-themed costumes to promote awareness of Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Rain Forest.
Performers from Esperanza Academy Charter School wear rain-forest-themed costumes to promote awareness of Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Rain Forest. (PATRICK McPEAK / Staff)
Posted: October 01, 2013

They listened to salsa and folk music by singer Victoria Sanabria, who came from Puerto Rico to perform. They ate morcilla (blood sausage) and other ethnic dishes, and played in domino tournaments while children enjoyed face-painting and other activities.

El Festival del Coqui was one of three organized events that followed Philadelphia's Puerto Rican Day Parade on Sunday.

"It was my responsibility as a Latino elected official to make sure we do things like this to help out the city, so people have somewhere to go that's family-oriented," said State Rep. Angel Cruz, an organizer of the event held in an athletic field across from Olney Charter High School at 100 W. Duncannon Ave.

Two other events, Movie in the Park and Boricua Fest, were held at Fairhill Park, Fourth Street and Lehigh Avenue, and at Robin Hood Dell East, Ridge Avenue and Huntingdon Street.

Community leaders decided to create the structured events after last year's high-profile incident in which a police officer was recorded punching a woman and knocking her to the ground amid chaos after the parade. The annual parade is organized by Concilio, a nonprofit social service agency also known as the Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations of Philadelphia.

Police and community officials, including City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, put together the after-parade events. A team of volunteers provided with T-shirts and communication radios from Town Watch helped monitor the parade route and later events.

Police reported a double shooting in the 500 block of Rising Sun Avenue about 6:15 p.m., near a post-parade celebration. One man was shot in the chest and taken to Temple Hospital. His condition and identity were unknown. A second man suffered a graze wound and was in stable condition at Temple, police said. A police spokeswoman said she was unsure whether the shootings were related to the festivities.

Cruz noted the heavy police presence around his event, which was expected to draw about 1,000 people. "No alcohol. No craziness. Tons of security, tons of cops, and they don't need it," Cruz said proudly, shortly after the event began.

In addition to free entertainment, the event included a dominos tournament, antique cars, free health-care screenings, and a dunking booth.

Johanna Delgado, 30, a baker who went with her 7-year-old daughter and mother, said she was pleased to have a family-oriented activity rather than drinking and "ruckus."

"It's about time they do something besides destroying the city," she said.

Earlier in the day, about 5,000 attendees and marchers lined the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to take part in the 51st annual parade on a sunny, 70-degree afternoon.

Amid a sea of folks sporting red-and-blue attire, Gladys Gutierrez wore a T-shirt that bore the statement "I've got Puerto Rico attitude" as she waved a hand-sized official flag of the Caribbean island.

She said the Puerto Rican Day Parade was about culture, music and food. "It's a family thing," said Gutierrez, 54, of West Philadelphia. A regular attendee of the parade, Gutierrez went with her daughter, granddaughter, and 3-month-old Chihuahua, Latasha, to watch the parade, which started at 18th Street, went west up the Parkway, and ended at Eakins Oval.

The parade featured an entourage of people riding on floats and chanting, "Puerto Rico!"

"It's amazing, especially for our children, to be a part of their heritage," said Celenia Rodriguez, a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School.


ssnyder@phillynews.com

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@ssnyderinq

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