By Nicole Mason
The Puerto Rican community in Fairfield County may not be as large as in other parts of Connecticut, but it is a vibrant one with pride in its traditions and culture. Carrying on that sense of pride and community in the area’s younger generations is the key message organizers from the Puerto Rican Parade of Fairfield County Inc., wish to send during this year’s event.
President Cruzmilda “Millie” Maldonado said the parade is an important part of the community because it is essential that youths embrace the traditions of Puerto Rican culture, especially since it is one of the few Hispanic and Puerto Rican events in the area.
“It is what we celebrate. We celebrate our culture, our food, our music and our language; and that’s really what’s important. It’s good to keep this going, especially for our next generations.”
According to John Ortiz, former PRPFC President, the parade “instill[s]. . . at least a seed, and that seed willl take them into perking their curiosity.”
The parade, coming in less than a week on Sunday, July 14, marks its 20th anniversary of celebrating Puerto Rican culture. Over the past 20 years, PRPFC Inc.’s mission has been to empower the community through promoting economic development, education and social advancement, Maldonado said.
But for all the fun that is had, organizing the parade has been hard work. Maldonado said she, along with organizers and volunteers, have been preparing for the 2013 parade since November of last year. With the conditions being so different 20 years ago, especially with the waning Puerto Rican community, it means a great deal to her and PRPFC, Inc. that the parade is still alive and well, she said. “It means a lot and says a lot about the people that are involved.”
“The last few years have been nonstop. The city of Bridgeport has been very, very generous to us as far as police and fire marshals, and they have really backed us up,” she added, paying tribute to the help of Bridgeport liaison Ruben Felipe and many others for their assistance.
This year, Maldonado expects the parade bring in almost three times as many volunteers as last year, and expects at least double the crowd. So far there are 40 units of bands, floats, dancers and more registered to march the streets of Bridgeport in next Sunday’s parade.
In addition to the traditional music, food, dancers, local and state dignitaries, pageant contestants, and vendors, people attending this year’s parade can benefit educationally as well. Milagros Rios, formerly president of PRPFC, Inc., will be providing education on taxes and tips on ObamaCare, to name a few. Health education and blood pressure screenings will also be available.
“Besides food and the fun and everything else, of course, it’s truly an avenue for educating the community,” Milagros says.
Fundraising efforts included the annual Cultural Pageant held each year by the incorporation. The pageant, which took place on June 22 in Stratford, raised money for both the parade and to give back to the contestants n the form of grants and bonds for future education. Other fundraising events include the Annual Banquet Gala and honorary Flag Raising.
For more information on the parade and upcoming PRPFC events, visit http://www.prpfc.org.