López Rivera: ‘I Will Be on Fifth Ave. Not as Your Honoree But as a Humble Puerto Rican’

On Thursday, an op-ed by Oscar López Rivera was published in the New York Daily News. Latino Rebels received the same text early Friday morning from a source who has been following the story for weeks. Here is the text, explaining why López Rivera will no longer be designated a National Freedom Hero from the National Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 11:

I am very proud to be Puerto Rican, and the National Puerto Rican Day Parade leadership and friends inspire in me even more pride in my community, as it gets ready to provide a space for Puerto Ricans to come together and celebrate our culture, heritage and contributions to society.

This parade is happening at a time when Puerto Rico is facing a political and economic crisis that is impacting everyone on the island. Unfortunately, the narrative around the Parade is not celebration and concern for the situation on the island but rather misinformation about who I am and what I stand for.

We must shift the focus. We cannot let people who are unfamiliar with Puerto Rican history define the narrative and experiences of our community. I want to repeat what I have said in many interviews, both in prison and since my release. I personally, and we as a community have transcended violence — it’s crucial for people to understand that we’re not advocating anything that would be a threat to anyone.

I thank the Parade leadership and so many Puerto Rican and Latino leaders for standing for the ideals that I represent, for setting the record straight against all odds, for using so much of their political capital to show, once more, their unflinching commitment to justice for the Puerto Rican people in New York and in Puerto Rico, and for all New Yorkers.

I am very proud to be Puerto Rican, and the National Puerto Rican Day Parade leadership and friends inspire in me even more pride in my community, as it gets ready to provide a space for Puerto Ricans to come together and celebrate our culture, heritage and contributions to society.

This parade is happening at a time when Puerto Rico is facing a political and economic crisis that is impacting everyone on the island. Unfortunately, the narrative around the Parade is not celebration and concern for the situation on the island but rather misinformation about who I am and what I stand for.

We must shift the focus. We cannot let people who are unfamiliar with Puerto Rican history define the narrative and experiences of our community. I want to repeat what I have said in many interviews, both in prison and since my release. I personally, and we as a community have transcended violence — it’s crucial for people to understand that we’re not advocating anything that would be a threat to anyone.

I thank the Parade leadership and so many Puerto Rican and Latino leaders for standing for the ideals that I represent, for setting the record straight against all odds, for using so much of their political capital to show, once more, their unflinching commitment to justice for the Puerto Rican people in New York and in Puerto Rico, and for all New Yorkers.

Now, let’s move on. Let’s celebrate. Let’s be puertorriqueños and puertorriqueñas. The honor should not be for me; it should be bestowed on our pioneers who came to the United States and opened doors. It should go for activists and elected officials who fight for justice and a fair society. It should go to the many companies that though not showing a float on June 11th have continued to support our future through scholarship funds.

I will be on Fifth Ave. not as your honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather who at 74 continues to be committed to helping raise awareness about the fiscal, health care and human rights crisis Puerto Rico is facing at this historic juncture.

Now, more than ever, when Puerto Rico is facing such a moment of crisis, unity among the Puerto Rican people is so important. I will continue to work to solve our problems as we work through our differences.

This is a national parade. All Puerto Ricans are welcome, and I encourage people to attend the parade and enjoy this day and each other, as has always been done to celebrate our Puerto Ricanness.

After López Rivera’s text was published by the Daily News on Thursday, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade’s Board of Directors shared the following statement with media: “We are looking forward to marching with Oscar López Rivera and respect his decision to walk up Fifth Avenue, ‘not as an honoree but as a humble Puerto Rican and grandfather.’ Now we can focus again on important issues and the plight of Puerto Rico.”

“He declined the honorary title at the parade. We respect that decision,” Andrés Chávez, a parade spokesman, told the New York Post.

In addition, the office of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio issued this statement, after there were reports saying that :

The parade has always been about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, not any one participant. It is a celebration of a culture and community at the center of what makes New York City great. Unfortunately, the parade and the plight of Puerto Rico have been overshadowed by needless controversy. Oscar López Rivera agreeing to step aside from any formal role in the parade is a critical step forward in refocusing our city’s attention on the more important issues facing Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico and its 3.5 million people, many of whom are family and loved ones of New Yorkers, are in the midst of an economic collapse and health care crisis that threatens their future. Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico deserve help from Washington and they are not receiving it. This should be our singular focus when it comes to Puerto Rico and our city’s parade.

The parade, chaired by Lorraine Cortéz-Vázquez (an advisor to de Blasio) was facing a mounting controversy over its decision to honor López Rivera.

A letter to the parade board from López Rivera, dated June 1, is being shared online by his supporters (FYI, the letter incorrectly addresses Cortés-Vázquez as Vázques Cortés):

“Oscar López Rivera was pardoned by President Obama was never convicted of a violent crime and is one of dozens of honorees being recognized at the Puerto Rican Day Parade,” New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, a supporter of López Rivera, said in a statement.

Last week, López Rivera told local Puerto Rican radio that “No Puerto Rican should submit to the wishes of a corporation.”

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