- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - Amid a cacophony of horns, whistles and loud music, Bill de Blasio led the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade up Fifth Avenue on Sunday for his first time as mayor.

Hundreds of thousands of marchers and onlookers packed the avenue on a warm sunny day. The theme of this year’s parade was “One Nation, Many Voices.”

“This year is different because New York has a new mayor,” said 39-year-old Felix Martinez, who wore a Puerto Rican flag on his cowboy hat for his 16th time at the parade.

“This is a good, positive change, and it gives us Puerto Ricans some sort of hope,” Martinez said.

Another big change this year was the replacement of the board of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc. after the state attorney general found that a man who promoted the event and his company misappropriated $1 million to benefit themselves and used airline vouchers donated by parade sponsors, JetBlue and American.

On Sunday, Puerto Rican employees of JetBlue marched behind an airline banner.

The parade stepped off late Sunday morning on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street, winding up at 79th Street.

De Blasio was joined by the two grand marshals, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, as well as U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and other officials.

On the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, they greeted Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Of Puerto Rican culture, he said: “Catholicism is in Puerto Rican blood, it’s in their DNA. Hallelujah!”

Floats, bands and marching formations all had one element in common: the red, white and blue colors of the Puerto Rican flag.

Jamie Morales wore all red, with the other colors appearing only on his sneakers.

What does being Puerto Rican in New York mean to the 30-year-old car parts salesman from Brooklyn?

“It means great food, great music, great people, great island,” he said with a grin, adding, “And we party a lot.”

Security was tight Sunday, with a heavy police presence and barricades stretching to Times Square that kept spectators strictly confined to sidewalks.

Parade organizers also marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Puerto Rican poet and activist Julia de Burgos.


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