Dancing, music and an air of cultural pride filled the streets of downtown Patchogue on Sunday as hundreds lined up on Main Street to celebrate the village's first-ever Hispanic Cultural Heritage Parade.
Despite the rain, which began shortly after the parade’s start, spirits were high among revelers from various towns and countries, many of whom waved — or were draped in — the flags of their homelands, from Ecuador to El Salvador, Honduras and other Latin American nations, as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
Paradegoers watched floats and cars drive down Main Street, some with costumed and colorful dancers while others played music ranging from reggaetón to salsa to bachata and more.
As he watched the parade along Main Street with a white and blue shirt that read “El Salvador,” Santos Mendoza, 62, of Patchogue, said he and the friends and family he came with were very excited to be there.
“People feel great watching this. It was very emotional because this is the first time an event like this has celebrated Hispanic culture like this in Patchogue,” Mendoza said. “The emotion that you saw in the people here today shows that they appreciate this event and how much it should be supported.”
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Paradegoers brave the rain on Main street during Patchogue Village's first Hispanic Cultural Heritage Parade on Sunday. Credit: Morgan Campbell
Joselo Lucero of Bay Shore served as the parade’s grand marshal, selected for his service in other community functions as well as to preserve the memory of his brother Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant from Patchogue. Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death on Nov. 8, 2008, near the Long Island Rail Road station in Patchogue by a group of seven teenagers who were looking for Hispanic people to assault.
Joselo Lucero told Newsday that the festivities were inspiring, as well as important in highlighting the positive contributions of the local Hispanic community.
Grupo De Danza Los Runos members perform an Ecuadorian dance at Patchogue Village's first Hispanic Cultural Heritage Parade on Sunday. Credit: Morgan Campbell
“There’s so many people here, and through that, we can demonstrate that the Hispanic community is prospering economically and that we also have a political power that will influence the future a lot," Lucero said.
"As you can see, this parade is the first of its kind for Hispanics here in Patchogue. We’re seeing that Patchogue has a large group of Ecuadorians, but also we can see people from many different countries in Central America and South America. It’s not just one group, it’s many groups, and I think the diversity that we bring to this country is very good and is continuing to enrich it,” he added.
Lizbeth Carrillo, a Patchogue Village trustee of Ecuadorian descent, said that for years, efforts were made in Patchogue to have a parade for the Hispanic community. However, those requests to the village never came through before now.
Dancers perform during Patchogue Village's first Hispanic Cultural Heritage Parade on Sunday. Credit: Morgan Campbell
“We’ve been requesting it and requesting it, and it was always something, like we were too late or any different excuse. When I became a trustee, we started working with the village and discussing it with my fellow trustees and the mayor of how important this is,” Carrillo said. “It’s very important because it’s more about education and being inclusive to everyone. This is not just something that the Hispanic community wanted, I think a lot of people wanted this. So it’s more about sharing, learning, and being inclusive. That was the main goal of this parade.”
Draped in the Puerto Rican flag as she danced with her husband, Geovany Ordonez, and a cousin along Main Street, Bruni Mojica of Patchogue said she was “very happy” to see everyone celebrating at the parade, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic muted so many celebrations.
When asked what her favorite part of the parade was, Mojica said, “Seeing all my people enjoy it.”
Jean-Paul Salamanca covers the East End. He focuses on Riverhead, Southold and Greenport on the North Fork, as well as Hampton Bays, Westhampton Beach, Flanders, Riverside and Quogue on the South Fork.
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