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Springfield Puerto Rican Parade celebrates roots, culture

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

More than 100 marching contingents made their way down Main Street for the 33rd annual Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Sunday. Thousands of marchers and spectators waved flags, danced and celebrated Latino culture in the city's North End and downtown areas.

Jessy Serrano came to the parade wearing a dress she designed herself which featured elements of the Puerto Rican flag. A longtime Springfield resident, Serrano said she comes to the parade every year.

"Well the vibe is being with your culture, being with family. Even though we are, like, distanced apart, but not really distanced. We still want to stick together," she said.

The parade theme was "nunca olvides tus raíces,” meaning never forget your roots and Serrano agreed with the sentiment. She said she always brings her children along so they can celebrate and learn more about their culture.

This year's Grand Marshal, Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, marched with family and friends and employee of her business Inclusive Strategies. The float was inspired by El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico and the island's indigenous people, the Taíno, an Arawak tribe.

"I'm extremely emotional and very happy. The way the community has come together to celebrate culture and our heritage makes me really joyful," she said.

She said the success of the parade is a combination of marchers and spectators and the local business community coming together and collaborating to represent Latino culture.

While honored to be chosen this year's Grand Marshal, Lugo-DeJesus said her responsibility is to also honor all of the honorees that came before her in the past 33 years.

"Not only the person, but what they embody, it's all of their contributions to community," she said. "So businesses, economic development, education, our non-profits, our entrepreneurs, our youth. I see that unfolding today and I know that this day is not only for me, but it's shared."

The city's clerk and election commissioner Gladys Oyola- Lopez marched in the parade and then joined her team in registering people to vote near the parade bandstand on the corner of Main and Bridge streets.

"My team needs to be out here to remind all of the Latinos, especially the Boricuas, that elections matter, that we matter," she said. "The Latino community makes up nearly 50 percent of the city based on the last census. There are over 100,000 registered voters, that just shows that there is power in our votes."

Springfield Puerto Rican Parade 2023

Heriberto "Herbie Flores," president of Partners for Community sported a classic guayabera shirt and cheered marchers on from the sidelines this year.

"This is positive because the city is including the Puerto Rican community. Like the Irish in Holyoke and the Italians in the South End [of Springfield]," he said. "This is an issue of pride, it's Puerto Ricans saying 'We are here, and we ain't going nowhere'."

Several candidates for elected office marched in the parade including Springfield mayoral candidate Justin Hurst and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

"It shows the vibrancy and the beautiful mosaic of the city of Springfield and highlights Puerto Rican culture, traditional and heritage. Puerto Rican community has played an integral part of the city" he said. "It's a high energy parade."

The parade is held in late September every year, helping to kick off National Hispanic Heritage Month which runs through Oct. 15.

Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.
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