Climate justice and economy: Demands at NYC’s Puerto Rican Day Parade
Participants in NYC's Puerto Rico Day Parade highlight the death toll on the island as a result of Hurricane Maria and the delayed response efforts. | Gabe Falsetta / PW

NEW YORK—Under cloudy skies with an intermittent drizzle, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican people and their allies turned out for the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. But this year was special: It celebrated the rich, proud tradition of the Puerto Rican people whose homeland has been devastated by hurricane Maria.

Among the festivities Sunday, June 10, the organization #OurPowerPRnyc Uprose created double-sided art depicting the beauty of Puerto Rico, and by flipping the art, showing the dilemmas Puerto Rico is facing. Protestors carried a large four-panel map of PR which when turned over displayed a recent Harvard study estimating the actual number of Hurricane Maria deaths: 4645. No Se Vende, Se Defiende (Not to be sold, but to defend), Just Transition, Climate Justice, were among the slogans and posters heard and seen.

The theme of the #OurPowerPRnyc contingent is “El poder lo tenemos nosotros”—We have the power. The principles of the campaign include the following:

  1. Drop the debt
  2. Repeal the Jones Act
  3. Show solidarity and support
  4. Say NO to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability ACT (PROMESA)
  5. Push for a just recovery and transition
  6. Support Puerto Rican climate refugees
  7. Reject the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

    Marchers in the NYC’s Puerto Rico Day Parade. | Gabe Falsetta / PW

Pabon, a Bronx resident, said, “Maria unmasked that we are a colony, I’m just tired of the way my island has been treated.”

Remembering those still struggling in Puerto Rico “makes today important but it also makes it bittersweet,” said Nora Ortiz.

The crowds took careful notice every time Uprose displayed their artwork and signs. The people responded to the chant “Se Defiende” as the contingent organizers repeated it. There was an air of militancy among the thousands at the parade, many of whom have relatives and friends still suffering in Puerto Rico.

This year’s parade comes a year after a controversial one, when the parade organization decided to recognize Oscar López Rivera. When many corporate sponsors backed out, including Governor Cuomo, Oscar Rivera declined the honor. This year’s overwhelming response to the neglect by the Trump administration toward the island could not be suppressed.

Referring to the devastation by hurricane Maria, Louis Maldonado, chair of the board that oversees the parade and its affiliated events, said, “We need to keep that part of the conversation.” Uprose and others came prepared to keep the message front and center.

#OurPowerPRnyc is a grassroots response to the climate crisis in PR. The campaign unites the Puerto Rican diaspora in NYC for a #just recovery. The campaign focuses on political education, solidarity and support for Puerto Rican climate refugees.

Puerto Rico will not be forgotten.

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Gabe Falsetta
Gabe Falsetta

Long-time social justice activist Gabe Falsetta writes from New York City.

Carol Ramos Widom
Carol Ramos Widom

Carol Ramos Widom is an educator writing from Brooklyn, N.Y.