In an interview with José Delgado of Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Día newspaper, the current chair of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade said that the controversy surrounding the parade’s decision to honor Oscar López Rivera has been tainted by the island’s political status debate.
“There has always been divisions about the status question,” Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez said in Spanish, “but there has never been such an ugly and hostile situation. The divisions have never been so harmful.”
Many observers of the López Rivera boycott movement —which has resulted in the loss of all but two sponsors (according to Cortés-Vázquez) as well as politicians and law enforcement organizations pulling out of the parade— attribute the initial push against 74-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist to reports (later scrubbed by El Diario) of online proponents of Puerto Rican statehood. In fact, one of the first stories written about Goya ending its 60-year relationship with the parade said that online pro-statehood supporters were celebrating the news. It is a claim also made by New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The June 11 parade in New York City is happening on the same day that a status plebiscite is happening on the island.
According to the El Nuevo Día story, Cortés-Vázquez said she was disappointed that so many sponsors dropped out of the parade, but that she respected the decision.
Besides López Rivera, the parade will also be honoring other Puerto Ricans in the 2017 edition, including salsa singer Gilberto Santa Rosa, the legendary Iris Chacón, Hall of Famer Iván Rodríguez, gold medalist tennis star Mónica Puig, Olympian Laurie Hernández and the 2017 Puerto Rican national baseball team. Cortés-Vázquez told El Nuevo Día that Puig had already said she could not attend the parade due to previous tennis commitments.
Cortés-Vázquez also said that the decision to honor López Rivera as a National Freedom Honor was to celebrate his release from federal prison and show that “we are country of many voices.”
“We are celebrating many things, but in general the accomplishments of the Puerto Rican community,” Cortés-Vázquez said in Spanish.
A former Secretary of the State in New York, Cortés-Vázquez is currently a senior advisor to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, who has said that he will participate in the parade.