Children in Argentinian soccer uniforms kicked balls, samba dancers in gold bikinis managed to smile under the weight of their enormous feathered dresses and women in white ruffled blouses and brightly colored skirts twisted and turned, spinning like tops during Sunday’s 37th annual Hispanic Parade in Jackson Heights.
A phalanx of politicians from Queens including Comptroller John Liu and Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), as well as Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota marched in the parade, which began on 69th Street and ended on 84th.
Cesar Amado, a 51-year-old carpenter from Colombia, has been living in Jackson Heights for 15 years. He goes to the parade every year.
“I love these events,” Amado said in Spanish. “When I watch, I’m filled with pride for my country and pride about being Hispanic.”
The parade, which has gone through several iterations over the decades, as the organizers and economy have changed, has come to be recognized as one of the landmark celebrations of National Hispanic Month in the neighborhood, organizers said.
“We wanted to showcase our culture to the American people,” said Ruben Flores, one of the organizers from the early ’80s, who hails from Peru and still helps with the parade.
He estimates that when he started organizing the parade, about 3,000 people showed up to watch. On Sunday, nearly 10,000 people were in the crowd, organizers said. “I didn’t think that nearly 30 years later the parade would be one of the biggest events of the year,” said Flores.
“It takes a year to prepare everything,” says Ruben Caseiro, the president of this year’s parade.
An Argentinian by birth, he’s been the president for the past two years.
“It’s almost 1,500 people marching, and about 50 different groups,” he said.
According to the last Census there are over 38,000 Latinos living in Jackson Heights.
Queens Civil Court Judge Carmen Velasquez, the first Ecuadorian-American judge in America was one of the politicians marching in the parade.
“I’m marching to let people know the laws in our country are equal for everyone,” said Velasquez. “It’s a wonderful event that demonstrates unity and celebrates our heritage.”
Stephanie Campus, 18, of Colombian heritage, was first runner up for the Miss Hispanidad beauty pageant and rode in one of the parade floats. Although she now lives on Long Island, she used to live in Jackson Heights as a child, and her mother’s office is still located there.
“It’s great to be out there surrounded by your people,” she said. “All of us are happy and love our culture, it gives everyone a chance to be proud of where they come from and show off their culture. Everyone came, even people who aren’t Hispanic.”