Monday, June 7, 2010

Yo Soy Nuyorican… But Not Like You

Yo Soy Nuyorican… But Not Like You

As we prepare to celebrate our Puerto Ricaness and all of its beautiful intricacies this weekend at the 2010 Puerto Rican Day Parade along Fifth Avenue, I can’t help but wonder if anyone even cares about the struggles – both past and present – of our people…

On any given Sunday in the past history of the parade you might’ve been marching behind the Latin King and Queen Nation who pretended to be an organization for the people, all the while killing their own brothers over drug deals gone badly.

This Sunday you might find yourself marching behind a group of self-professed, self-titled Taínos who are no more peaceful than the conquistadors of Christopher Columbus who cut Yucayeke (village) boys in half and fed the bodies of Taíno babies to their dogs.

I know… it’s a strong statement which makes us all sick to our stomachs.

But the problem is, there is truth behind my words, as I’ve heard one of these self-appointed Taíno chieftains threaten to pull out his glock-nine on anyone he deems an enemy of his people.

I guess he wants to ensure there will be no more genocide under his watch.

The only difference is that the Taínos only responded to vi
olence, never perpetrated it.

To me personally, the Puerto Rican Day Parade is as representative of Latino people as the “Being Latino” Facebook fan page.

Which is to say it serves no real purpose, has no real sense of direction and merely serves as a mirage to make us all feel accomplished. When the truth is we have a long way to go before we should ever dream of raising a triumphant flag of our own red, white and blue design.

Why would I say the PR Parade doesn’t represent me in anyway? Well for one thing, my daughters aren’t represented by the half-naked girls walking around with Puerto Rican flags covering their overtly protruding breasts… barely fourteen years old with enough Sazón to season fifty pernils.

And although a great majority of young Latino males are in desperate need of male role models to guide them into adulthood. I refuse to believe that those showing off their Puerto Rican flag boxer shorts and do-rags are any representation of the next generation of Latino leaders we’ll surely have to find in order to be represented properly in the future of government and corporate America.

The Latino politicians who wave atop $50,000 floats certainly aren’t representing the communities they were voted in to improve upon…

And who the hell keeps inviting the man who changed the laws to be mayor, “Moneybags Bloomberg,” to this event every year? He certainly is no friend to the Latinos in New York, though he certainly puts on a great act every year complete with straw hat and guayabera.

Much like everything else in this world, the Puerto Rican Day Parade has become a big business trying to grab hold of the billions of dollars Latinos spend each year.

As such… the Galos Corporation and the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc., have secured the best spots along the parade route for the big money investors, while people trying to spread messages of hope and survival are priced completely out of the parade.

Case in point, the DKMS, can’t even afford a float or a banner to promote its lifesaving efforts for six-month-old Bronx Latina, Sophia Lopez who is in desperate need of a bone marrow donor of Latino descent.

She will certainly die without a match being found… and as she prepares to enter the hospital, possibly for the last time, no one has stepped up to assist in these life-saving promotional efforts.

There is a very real chance that a match could be found in the two-million Latinos expected to cover the parade route. But apparently, Sophia’s life comes behind the hottest reggaetón band whose record label can afford the float, so the young, half-naked little ladies in attendance will show the world just how much Sazón a 14-year-old has.

Are you starting to understand why I don’t exactly feel represented by this parade?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be proud of our heritage, our legacy, where we’ve been and where we’re going.

But during a time when Latino support and loyalty seems to be non-existent or a very rare find.

During a time when Latinos are flunking out of school at close to 60 percent in many districts in New York.

During a time when we’re suffering from obesity, drug addiction, poverty, homelessness, mental health disorder and many levels of abuse in the home.

During a time when it’s almo
st illegal to be Latino in some parts of the country…

This man here sees no reason to raise the Puerto Rican flag in celebration.

My loyalty is to humanity…

And when I see so many Latinos failing to show humanity in the simplest way to a six-month-old Latina baby… I see no reason to show solidarity in that.
No reason to show my pride in something I’m certainly not proud of. Maybe next year…

Ivan Sanchez is the author of Next Stop: Growing up Wild-Style in the Bronx (Touchstone – Simon & Schuster, 2008). The book is the first memoir released by a major publishing house written by a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. Sanchez is also the co-author of It’s Just Begun: The Epic Journey of DJ Disco Wiz, Hip Hop’s First Latino DJ (powerHouse, 2009). He was awarded the National Novel honors for his first fiction offering and is currently working on several new books about NY Latinos. He is also the co-host of Rebel Radio on Urban Latino Radio.


  1. Ivan - I started to see that something was going extremely wrong with the "behind the scenes" of the Puerto Rican Day Parade for a few years now, but sat back and watched it play out exactly how I thought it would... and it did. Miguel Cotto mentioned in an interview earlier this week that he would fight June 5 at Yankee Stadium and "Return to my home, Puerto Rico".

    I mentioned this to Casper and said "Hey what do you think about that?" Puerto Ricans flock to the parade mainly to see those type of superstar Ricans stroll down 5th Avenue and give the occasional wave, sign the autograph and throw the free ¢.75 wrinkled promotional t-shirt. I know the feeling first hand because I walked right down 5th with Cotto and his crew after his first victory at Madison Square Garden. I remember seeing the faces of many happy humble Puerto Ricans at the sight of stars like Victor Manuelle, Tito Trinidad, Fat Joe and others.

    Being part of a race now is something that is a style or trend, not so much a strong belief. Back when my grandfather believed that Puerto Rico should be free he sat down with Lolita Lebrón and the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and planned to kill the president of the United States. Not saying that this was the right approach. My grandfather read seven newspaper everyday in several different languages. He kept himself informed and involved because he believed in fighting for his people. But today, we allow our own people to walk over us and take full advantage of us.

    We follow... we don't lead. This is part to blame for those "affluent and educated" Puerto Ricans who destroy our culture with parades and silly parties in celebration of what? The only companies laughing are the ones we buy from because they push their messages at our cultural heritage celebrations. Western Union, Money Gram, American Airlines, Goya and the list goes on. These companies don't mind blemishing our culture with their powerful brands. The unfortunate part of this is that they dictate the terms of their sponsorship involvement because we let them. Not Rolex nor Mercedes Benz can dictate their terms to the US Tennis Open. The US Tennis Open dictates the terms and gets the big dollars anyway. That's how an event's value is preserved. However, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade allows any company or individual to buy in for the exchange of exposure to the Puerto Rican consumer, who are known consumers, for thousands of dollars and allows brand to run amok among our people. It's not these companies' goodwill that rakes in sponsorship dollars. It's their knowledge of our spending habits and power.

    We need to fight tooth and nail with companies like Nick Lugo, R. Paniagua and the Galos Corporation and tell them get the sponsorship dollars but preserve our culture and make these events representative to who we really are. Being Puerto Rican is much more than listening to Reggaeton, Salsa and drinking Bud Light. Being Puerto Rican is sticking together and coming together for Puerto Ricans and Latinos like six-month old Sofia Lopez.

  2. It's absolutely disgusting what the GALOS corp has done with the Puerto Rican Day parade. A parade that is suppose to be about our culture, food and music is now about 'Can you get a sponsor to pay for this $22,000 float?. Don't get me started on people who sell themselves as one thing and turn out to be the total opposite. The fact that no one who can actually do something for Sofia Lopez has even stepped up is absolutely mind boggling. What happened to the sense of community? Whatever happened to? it takes a village to raise the children.

  3. Funny, I've been saying for years that the Latino community has no leadership and this is what seperates us from other communities such as the African American community. This lack of leadership lets us stay ignorant and uninformed so when someone tries to "champion" for the people, our peeps eat it up.

    For all the organizations that attempt to "empower" the community, they're merely marionette puppets and they're either in denial or in the dark about it all. Parades like this, groups like BL, organizations like Latism, festivals like NYILFF all try to be a player at the table by positioning themselves as speakers of the people when the only people they speak for are themselves.

    Are they justified? Yea it's a business and it's about commerce. Traditional business still works a certain way and since our people are visually superficial, we eat up the shady politican who speaks 2 spanish words at a media event.

    The only thing I can say for people like you guys is to lead by example. People who want to step up will and those who don't won't be listening to any insights you have anyway. Until there's a breakout Latino business person who has not played the role of Tio Tomas for the powers that be, we won't be more than a "buying power" statistic, whatever that means.

  4. Powerful post. I too feel the way you do. When I started researching my roots, finding out about our ethnic makeup- including the Tainos who were slaughtered and the Africans who were forced into slavery on the island since the 1500s- and our fallen leaders, like Eugenio Maria de Hostos and Pedro Albizu Campos, I was overcome with a REAL sense of pride.

    I do not identify with these flag wavers who make "You know you're Puerto Rican when..." jokes, when in fact, they know NOTHING about our history. Or the half naked women who go to the parade to show off their bodies. Or the young men who go to the parade armed with video cameras to film these young ladies. It's sickening.

  5. I stopped attending the parade because of the "hoochie mamas" and the yellow shirts. They were not going to represent me and I was not going to support it. I don't pretend to know the political deals made behind the scenes of a parade but I do know that we as a people will not come together behind any one group as long as national pride is at stake.

    We claim to be a caring, loving, passionate people but we don't show it to our own.

  6. I finally found someone who is out the box and not blinded by the dark cloud over our community, turning us into Zombies. Please check out my educational pledge project at I've tried over the years to introduce my educational pledge (a strong and educational message for our young people) to the Puerto Rican Parade group without any success. I would appreciate your feedback. The goal of our group is to teach our young people to read, write, and to think "critically" so that they can come to their own assessments and conclusions, without being turned into mime me's by people governing our political and educational institutions.

  7. In my new book, Ruins of a Society and the Honorable, I speak of the foreign invasions and injustices that plagued the islands of Puerto Rico. I speak of the injustice of my uncle Jose Pereira Torres of Monte Santo Vieques, PR, who was forced out of Vieques during the US invasion of the 1940s; he was approximately 11 years old. He migrated to St Croix, Virgin Island and ran for the Senate November 07, 1978.

    In May 1979, he was accused of conspiring to participate with a radical group in sabotaging US military vehicles, charges that were later proven false and eventually dismissed. The only violation committed by Jose Pereira was when he and 21 others were arrested for civil disobedience in a restricted US Navy bombing area, which was also the same year when The Crusade for the Rescue of Vieques was founded. But the injustice against Jose Pereira and others didn’t end there. Against his will and proclamation of innocence, my uncle was labeled a communist by US officials, but Jose Pereira saw himself as a freedom fighter and not an independentistas.

    In his words, “independentistas concern themselves with too many issues beyond the problems of Vieques.” Unlike many others, I acknowledged the existence of the court and I make it clear this is not the problem. The bombardment, the injustices of our people and the forcible migration of Viequenses are my concerns. I’m here to prevent future generations from the humiliation we were all subjected to.”

    Making it clear to his family; he accused the government of torture and experiment of others while incarcerated. Angel Rodriguez Cristobal, who was also arrested with Jose, was sent to a federal prison in Florida, two weeks later he was found dead in his cell. According to prison officials he committed suicide by hanging, but reports stated he had a large gash across his forehead and a pool of blood beneath his feet where he hung in his cell.

    Jose Pereira returned to St Croix and later died of cancer. Although these inhumane practices no longer exist in Puerto Rico, the reminisce left behind by the constant years of US military exercises in bombing Vieques, still show signs of extremely high levels of radiation, lead contamination and cancer among many children throughout most of the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico.

    Sugar Pathways brought to surface in my mind the many stories told to me por mi madre, Margarita Pereira Morales, mi tio, Diego Pereira y mi tia, Maria Pereira Martinez, who is still a resident of Vieques. Johanna Bermudez-Ruiz has done a wonderful job in her documentary. I’m not only proud to say we are of the same bloodline, but extremely proud to have known her during my lifetime.

    Al Bermudez Pereira, LLC.