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. Now heading into its 20th year, the Puerto Rican Parade of Fairfield County, Inc. (PRPFC) seeks to carrying on that sense of community and tradition in the area’s younger generations during this weekend’s festivities.
Founder Cruzmilda “Millie” Maldonado said that, since it is one of the few Hispanic and Puerto Rican events in the area, the parade is an integral part of the community cultural fabric. She stressed the importance of local youths embracing Puerto Rican traditions. She said, “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, which will make its way through the streets of Bridgeport in less than a week on July 14, has a lot to celebrate after two decades. Throughout the past 20 years, the PRPFC has empowered 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. Despite several changes over the years, it means a great deal to her and PRPFC, Inc. that the parade is still alive and well. “It means a lot and says a lot about the people that are involved.”
This year, Maldonado expects the parade has almost three times as many volunteers as last year, and expects at least double the crowd. So far, 40 units of bands, floats, dancers and other groups have registered to march the streets next Sunday.
For organizers, the last few month 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.
To offset the costs of the parade, fundraising efforts included the annual Cultural Pageant held each year by PRPFC. The pageant, which was held in June in Stratford, raised money for both the parade and to give back to the contestants in the form of grants and bonds for future education. Other fundraising events include the Annual Banquet Gala and honorary Flag Raising.
Traditional music, food, and entertainment are not the only elements attendees of this year’s parade can partake in. Milagros Rios, formerly president of PRPFC, Inc., will be providing information on topics from 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 said.
For more information on the parade and upcoming PRPFC events, visit http://www.prpfc.org.