A Fifth Column on Fifth Avenue

Jun 10, 2017
5:03 PM

To Juan Antonio Corretjer Montes, for giving us “Boricua en la luna.”

“The victory of a Puerto Rican over another Puerto Rican is the defeat of the motherland.” —Pedro Albizu Campos

“The National Puerto Rican Parade is arguably the soul of the Puerto Rican community.” —Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Chair of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade

Graphic design by Elma Beatriz Rosado

This year, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York will be held without the participation of its traditional commercial sponsors. Some of our top Puerto Rican journalists reported that an amplified campaign from conservative sectors and statehood proponents was the key factor responsible for getting several of the sponsors to withdraw from the June 11 event.

Nonetheless, parade organizers are still guided by their motto, “One Nation, Many Voices” and have upheld their mission—“to create awareness and appreciation of Puerto Rican culture and history, as well as to highlight our community’s contributions to the global society.” They continue promote art, culture and education in the Boricua community, both in Puerto Rico and in the United States. They have also developed a scholarship program that, thanks to its sponsors, offers higher education opportunities to 100 students of Puerto Rican origin enrolled in high school and college.

Twenty-two Puerto Ricans were selected as this year’s parade’s honorees—the first of them is the designated Grand Marshal, the beloved Caballero de la Salsa, Gilberto Santa Rosa. Baseball catcher Ivan Rodríguez has been chosen as Godfather and vedette Iris Chacón as Godmother. In addition, the Communities Award will be given to the town of Hormigueros and to the Puerto Rican communities in Lorain and Cleveland, Ohio. Personalities from various branches of the arts, culture, sports and history will represent the diversity of our people. All these honorees deserve to be mentioned: Julio Monge, Modesto Lacén, Éktor Rivera, Shalim Ortiz, Alan Villafaña, Ricardo Luis Villarini, Walter Mercado, Bobby Cruz, Ismael Rivera, Jr., Ana Isabelle, Jeimy Osorio, Yandel, Ozuna, Rolando Alejandro , Buscabulla, “Team Rubio – Los Nuestros” Puerto Rico 2017 World Baseball Classic team, Monica Puig, Laurie Hernández and Oscar López Rivera.

No matter how many times one repeats the names of the 22 honorees, several companies sponsoring the parade and its educational scholarships withdrew their money because they did not agree with one of the 22 invitations—López Rivera. The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, even became one of the instigators of the actions boycotting the parade, saying that he “would urge anyone—all of the sponsors and anyone to avoid supporting this initiative,” based on his disagreement with the organizers, from whom he perceives an “intention to make [López Rivera] a hero.”

Late last year, Rosselló was one of López Rivera’s more public supporters. But now, he changed his mind.

And will not forget.

A governor who incites an active boycott so sponsors pull out of a celebration has as its north the unification of a nation —of more than eight million people— should know that his actions will certainly have consequences. Rosselló’s operative to differentiate or establish differences among Puerto Ricans this Sunday on Fifth Avenue got the attention of the media, and consequently, that of the citizens of the United States. There is no doubt that he succeeded, although he seems to be unaware of the consequences of his fifth columnist action. Drawing negative attention to the event has shown people in the United States how different Puerto Ricans are from them, and so attention has focused instead toward the struggles for independence, the actions of the independentistas and the persistence of a struggle that remains active to this day. The campaign, as soon as it took off, crashed.

In addition, it has become evident to Puerto Ricans that the governor’s bad faith toward his own people —those living in Puerto Rico or abroad—has created the tragic and incorrect message that boricuas are not brothers and sisters. Trying to damage this long-lived event, which this year reaches its 60th edition, is to play dirty with Rosselló’s own lineage.

Boricuas will always be one nation.

The most terrible thing is that with that one action, Rosselló also denied his support and recognition to Gilbertito, Iván, Iris, Julio, Modesto, Team Rubio (Los Nuestros), Mónica, Laurie and the rest of the honorees. The governor turned his back on those who have brought pride, joy, and an increase in the self-esteem of the Puerto Rican people at key moments. Just like Rosselló, Puerto Ricans have also been scorned by companies like AT&T, Coca-Cola, Corona, Goya Foods, JetBlue, New York Yankees, Univision, Fox News, NBC, Telemundo 47, the New York Daily News, as well as by New York firefighters, police officers unions, Hispanic associations, city officials and politicians—including governor Andrew Cuomo and New York senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Instead of honoring the Puerto Rican community, it really looks like Héctor Luis Álamo summed it up perfectly with this piece: “The Puerto Rican Revolution Will Not Have Corporate Sponsors.”

Confronting efforts to sow discord in an attempt to divide Puerto Ricans, Oscar has asked the organizers of the parade that instead of honoring him, the honorees should be the pioneers of the diaspora and those who have worked for his release, which maintains the original link to the purpose the organizers had in mind. He also wishes that the honor be shared by “those who are confronting the fiscal crisis, in the health and human rights system” that Puerto Rico is facing, in which the University of Puerto Rico’s students (whom Oscar has fervently supported) are its most vocal messengers. Oscar will say ¡presente! along with his Puerto Rican brothers and sisters on Fifth Avenue and walk with them like the humble Puerto Rican he is.

But this goes beyond that just a parade. Not content with dividing Boricuas in New York, the proponents of Puerto Rican statehood will unilaterally vote on the political status of the Puerto Rican people—the same day of the parade. The so-called plebiscite is another divisive act, as it will not have the participation of the independence sector nor the sovereignty sector —not even the status-quo supporters will participate— as all have called for a boycott.

The vote is not binding.

No entity will recognize it.

Just ask the U.S. Justice Department.

If Rosselló hoped to promote Washington statehood for Puerto Rico, he has actually failed and has promoted precisely the opposite—on the very same date the Nationalist Party pays homage to the Puerto Rican flag.

Trying to erect a fifth column on Fifth Avenue is to disrespect the motto “One Nation, Many Voices” and it is an aggression against the very “soul of the Puerto Rican community.”

It will not be forgotten.



Elma Beatriz Rosado is a historian, writer and the widow of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, a Puerto Rican nationalist killed by the FBI.