Saying that the “this year’s views and values of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade committee do not conform with the society’s mission of promoting peace and unity,” the NYPD [New York City Police Department] Hispanic Society decided to not participate in the June 11 parade, according to a Thursday tweet the society’s profile.
The decision by the NYPD Hispanic Society comes a few days after Goya Foods pulled sponsorship from the parade. A May 15 El Diario report said that Goya was out of the parade because the parade was honoring Oscar López Rivera —whose federal sentence for “seditious conspiracy” was commuted by President Obama in January and house arrest ended in Puerto Rico on Wednesday— but now Goya is saying that its decision was not specifically related to López Rivera. (In the meantime, López Rivera called for a Goya boycott on May 16.) The NYPD Hispanic Society statement made reference to series of attacks in the 1970s by the FALN (Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional), a Puerto Rican Nationalist group. According to NPR, “between 1974 and 1983, the FALN claimed responsibility for more than 70 bombings in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. The bombings caused millions in property damage, dozens of injuries and five deaths.”
Nonetheless, López Rivera was never convicted for any of the bombings. His official charge was “seditious conspiracy,” or to “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States.” He is a controversial figure in Puerto Rico, no doubt (beloved my many, hated by others), and if you want to read how complex he is, Hector Alamo wrote a tome that is a must read.
The reality is of López Rivera’s symbolism as a parade honoree (we contacted the parade comment about the NYPD Hispanic Society statement and have yet to hear back) was best summarized this week by Angelo Falcón:
…you can clearly see where the Parade finds itself not only within the politics of the Puerto Rican community but also that of New York City as a whole and Puerto Rico. The Oscar Lopez Rivera issue has highlighted the differences between independentists and statehooders on Puerto Rico’s status, the role of local politicians like Parade Chair Lorraine Cortes-Vazquez and her boss, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as the role of Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General, and the New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito!The National Puerto Rican Day Parade was supposed to mostly be about the culture of the Puerto Rican people. Instead, it’s become more about politics in a way that I am sure looks totally incoherent to those outside of the Puerto Rican community (and maybe to most within it).
There is a lot to unpack, but Falcón is hitting the bigger issue here. And it is really starting to feel that way.