Metro

‘People don’t understand that this parade coming down this street is a miracle’

Kayleen Aponte chanted during the 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival parade, which began at the Hynes Convention Center on Sunday.
Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
Kayleen Aponte chanted during the 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival parade, which began at the Hynes Convention Center on Sunday.

To be Puerto Rican is to be proud: That’s the lesson Carlos Pizarro Muñoz’s grandfather taught him to live by. The late Jorge “Chico” Muñoz would’ve been 104 years old on Sunday, the final day of the 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival.

Known to some as the father of Boston’s Puerto Rican community, Chico Muñoz founded the festival in 1967 as a way to promote a sense of belonging. Decades later, on Sunday afternoon, Boston was filled with the sound of salsa as people waving Puerto Rican flags celebrated the “Island of Enchantment.”

“He would’ve been so ecstatic,” Irma Muñoz-Sullivan, a Medford resident, said of her father. “It would be very rewarding to know this festival is getting stronger and introducing more young people to the culture.

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Relatives of the late Chico Muñoz traveled from all across the United States to march in Boston’s Puerto Rican Parade and honor the patriarch’s memory.

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“It was breathtaking. Enlightening,” said Carlos Pizarro Muñoz, 49, who lives in Atlanta. “People don’t understand that this parade coming down this street is a miracle.”

Savanna Hernandez danced in the parade on Sunday.
Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
Savanna Hernandez danced in the parade on Sunday.

They wore shirts with his picture and practiced their dance steps before walking from Hynes Convention Center to City Hall Plaza, where carnival rides awaited. The three-day festival featured live music, performers from around the state, and Puerto Rican fare.

“I think he’s looking down going, ‘wow,’ ” said Joan Tapia, 48, a niece of Chico Muñoz and a Beacon Hill resident. “I think he’s smiling.”

In the Back Bay, Jasmine Ramon, 22, said she doesn’t see other Puerto Ricans unless she hears a familiar beat blasting from their car stereos. Draped in a Puerto Rican flag, she was excited to support local businesses and have a plate of arroz con gandules or rice and pigeon peas.

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Her background is a blend of Haitian and Puerto Rican, two proud cultures born of revolution and resiliency, she said. Side by side on the sidewalk, Jose Rodriguez, 70, and Petra Maldonado, 75, waved as the parade passed. The couple met dancing at a club in Boston.

“My heart gets happy to see our people,” Maldonado said.

“This is ours,” Rodriguez said smiling.

That’s what her father always intended, said Irma Muñoz-Sullivan: to build community

“He always thought it was important to be proud of who you are,” she said.

Past and current Puerto Rican Festival Queens rode a float on Sunday.
Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
Past and current Puerto Rican Festival Queens rode a float on Sunday.
Jorge Marcial rode in the parade.
Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
Jorge Marcial rode in the parade.

Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.