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Shades of resistance, unity at Puerto Rican parade

Mercedes Morales (left), 23, and Ivangelie Colon, 24, waited for the parade. The Puerto Rican festival ended Sunday after three consecutive days of music, food, and games.
Mercedes Morales (left), 23, and Ivangelie Colon, 24, waited for the parade. The Puerto Rican festival ended Sunday after three consecutive days of music, food, and games. Pat Greenhouse/Globe staff/Globe Staff

Among the red-white-and-blue Puerto Rican flags that filled Boston’s City Hall Plaza Sunday for a celebration of the island’s culture were some in black and white, a symbol of the mounting frustrations and protests there.

Mercedes Morales, 23 of Mattapan, and Ivangelie Colon, 24, of Waltham, were wearing T-shirts with black-and-white Puerto Rican flags and the words “Así no se gobierna” — that’s not how you govern — as they sat on a curb to watch the parade. Under the flags on their shirts was the hashtag #RickyRenunció, a reference to the rallying cry for those who wanted Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló to resign.

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“From my family I know that; they’ve relayed to me that it is corrupted,” Colon said. “Ever since the hurricane, they’ve noticed how corrupted it is.”

Members of the Fuerza International Dance Group danced back out from under a giant flag.
Members of the Fuerza International Dance Group danced back out from under a giant flag.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Morales said she thinks the protests highlight the strength of the Puerto Rican people.

“All Puerto Ricans from all over the state, we’re all here at once. We’re all united at once,” Morales said. “. . . We’re really resilient people, and we’re really proud. Always proud.”

This year’s Puerto Rican Festival and Parade in Boston were marked by the resistance back home as members of the diaspora gathered to salute their heritage.

In mid-July the Center for Investigative Reporting in Puerto Rico published 889 pages of messages from the app Telegram between Rosselló and his aides and Cabinet members. In those messages Rosselló and members of his inner circle made misogynistic remarks and crudely joked about constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria, the storm that devastated the island in 2017.

The messages sparked massive protests on the island, with people demanding that Rosselló resign. Late Wednesday he announced that he will leave office Friday. And on Sunday the person next in line to replace the governor, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, said she does not want the job.

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The Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts began in 1967 with a celebration in the South End. This year’s festival began last Monday with a flag-raising at City Hall Plaza and ended Sunday after three consecutive days of music, food, and carnival games.

Sheenah Reyes of Methuen had her face painted like the Puerto Rican flag.
Sheenah Reyes of Methuen had her face painted like the Puerto Rican flag.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

During Sunday’s parade many people wore Puerto Rican flags on their shoulders like capes. Along the route from the Hynes Convention Center to City Hall Plaza, crowds cheered, old friends hugged, and people danced to music blaring from float speakers.

Taisha Diaz, 28 of Dorchester, came to see her siblings dance and carry flags in the parade. On Sunday morning she picked out a red shirt, styled like a baseball jersey, with the word “Boricua” — a callback to the indigenous Taíno name for the island, Boriken — running down the side.

“It’s something to enjoy with the whole community,” she said. “Everyone comes out and shows support.”

Hector Serrano, 71 of Roslindale, dressed his shih tzu, Princess, in a tiny Puerto Rican flag jersey and took her to the parade. Parade-goers stopped to admire the dog’s outfit and snap a photo.

“This is our day, this is our celebration for Puerto Ricans to come together,” he said. “Seeing the people walking up and down, seeing different people, talking to different persons, this is wonderful. If we do that, this would be a very happy city. We have to learn how to get along and talk to each other without hesitation.”

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Serrano said he had not been back to Puerto Rico in years, but wants to go back soon. He said he hoped for the best for his homeland.

“It’s pretty sad, what’s been going on over there after Hurricane Maria and the problems with the economy. And this, with the governor — it’s not only him,” Serrano said. “It has been happening for a long time, so it’s about time that they get him.”

Elaine Vega of Dorchester danced as the parade passed by Park Street Station.
Elaine Vega of Dorchester danced as the parade passed by Park Street Station.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Gal Tziperman Lotan can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @tzigal.