By Annika Darling
The origin of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade is somewhat of a legend, passed down through parade organizers.
As the story goes, when Hurricane Hugo struck Puerto Rico in 1989, nearly 28,000 people were left homeless and damages exceeded one billion dollars. Thousands of miles away, a group of local residents in the city of Springfield gathered with the hope of assisting their brothers and sisters.
“Something strange happened in our hearts and we realized we were one community divided by water,” Gumersindo Gomez (parade founding member) told parade organizing protégé, Lucila J. Santana, in 2010.
With the desire of raising the spirits of local residents within the Puerto Rican community, establishing a sense of pride, and having the contributions of the Puerto Rican community be recognized across the board, a contingency of Springfield residents presented a petition to the state to raise the Puerto Rican flag in city halls within the Commonwealth. Governor Michael Dukakis approved this petition, and the city of Springfield held its very first rising of the Puerto Rican flag on November 19, 1989. During this event it was announced that the city would have its first Puerto Rican Parade the following year.
This celebration coincided with “El Mes de la Puertorriqueñidad,” Puerto Rican Heritage Month celebrated in Puerto Rico.
Over the years the parade has grown exponentially. Santana, now part of the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Planning Team and Springfield Public Schools Public Relations Coordinator, says that this year’s parade was tremendously successful and that: “It was certainly historical.”
An estimated 6,000 people gathered to watch this year’s parade. Over 120 marching contingencies signed up to march, more than any in preceding years, and each group numbered anywhere from 20 to 250 participants. Participants flocked from as far as Boston and New York. And there were more floats than ever before.
This is the second year the Parade Planning Team–a group of relatively young professionals from the area who volunteer their time—have organized the parade. Last year, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center passed on the baton to the team. According to Santana, the team deeply cares about the community and works year round to organize the parade.
With the current economic struggle in Puerto Rico, this year’s parade…
Finish reading Springfield’s Puerto Rican Parade: A Proud History