Reggaeton tunes blared from open car trunks, the bass thumping a pulse onto the Boston sidewalks where thousands had gathered. To a medley of foghorns and island hits, young girls in shiny dresses twirled flags and swung their hips, performing synchronized salsa dances as lowriders crawled by.
Watching the procession along Tremont Street, Edwin Rivera, 56, was reminded of the place his parents called home.
“It gives me spirit,” he said. “We dance, we sing, we have a good time. When you come to Puerto Rico — it’s 24/7, partying like this.”
An estimated 2,200 people made their way down Boylston Street to City Hall Plaza Sunday at the 47th annual Puerto Rican Festival parade, the culmination of a three-day festival celebrating Puerto Rican heritage.
Boston Police Chief William Gross estimated about 5,000 onlookers amassed on the parade route, which took 16 floats from Boylston Street onto Tremont Street, and then to City Hall Plaza.
“It means a lot to people because they don’t get the chance to have these activities that make them feel proud about their ancestors,” said parade coordinator Anastasia Correa. “This way they know they have a little bit of Puerto Rico over here in Massachusetts.”
Along the parade route, cars and vans, bikes, and even a Duck Tour bus were decked out in Puerto Rican flags, streamers, and license plates. A dozen people marched down the street holding the edges of a giant flag, while a man on stilts danced and high-fived the brightly dressed revelers who danced merengue and bachata on the sidewalk.
“That’s how our culture is,” said 36-year-old Kizzy Arizmendi. “We like to celebrate. We like to party. We like to be loud.”
More than a dozen cycling enthusiasts and mechanics wheeled restored vintage bicycles, some dating back more than 50 years, past the crowd. Eddie Lopez, 47, had a crimson-colored 1949 Schwinn Black Phantom. Cycling is a rite of passage for Puerto Ricans’ coming of age, the member of the Schwinn Bicycle Club’s Brockton chapter said.
“It’s a part of the experience,” Lopez said. “You want to see your girl? You bike. Go to a friend’s? Bike. They’re everywhere.”
As she waited for a friend’s 4-year-old to whisk down a carnival slide, Magali Colon, 31, said parades like Sunday’s give Puerto Ricans a chance to educate their children on their heritage. Colon said she spent 12 years in the island city of San Lorenzo, as a child, although she was born in Boston.
“For them, it’s fun,” she said. “They eat the food and play games. We try to explain to them where they come from — how we got here.”
Elaine Vega, 37, soaked in the parade’s energy draped in a Puerto Rican flag and shaded by a straw hat. The loud music and dancing, she said, are the essence of Puerto Rico.
“We’re loud people,” she said. “People think we’re screaming, but we’re not. We express ourselves this way.”