I’ve been tweeting stories about the Puerto Rican Day Parade here in NYC for a few weeks now. The Parade is one of the largest events centered on Puerto Rican nationality and ethnic identity and pride in the city. People plan for the event all year, and some even travel across the country to attend. Although I have only intentionally attended one time, as I’ve become claustrophobic as I’ve aged, I can say that many community members find the event important to the transmission of our cultural practices and is considered a rite of passage for many.
The most recent story that has been at the center of discussing the Parade this year is the chosen “godfather,” actor, singer and model Osvaldo Rios. Huge controversy surrounds his presence at the Parade because of his history of violence against women. This controversy began back in May of this year when the announcement was made. In 2004 Rios spent 3 months in a Puerto Rican prison for abusing his partner at the time. Part of the controversy that has begun was when council member in Spanish Harlem Melissa Mark-Viverito stated:
“It’s not a positive role model for my people, for my community and for our children. I personally will not march in the parade and I will ask other elected officials to consider doing the same thing.” Not everyone agreed with Mark-Viverito and believed that people “deserve second chances.”
Following Mark-Viverito’s statements, the Marshal for the Parade, Chicago Rep. Luis Gutierrez quit and Verizon pulled its sponsorship earlier this week, the first full week of June. This has resulted in Rios making a decision about his presence and participation at the Parade. Rios recently announced he has chosen to not attend the Parade. He is quoted in the NY Daily News as saying:
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“After discussing this issue with my wife, my children and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, to whom I’m grateful for her wise words, my family and I have decided … not to attend the parade and promote the unity and the consensus between the Puerto Rican people at such a great event.”
I have to admit that I am one of the people who believe this is a good decision to not have Rios be the “godfather” at the Parade, this year or any year for that matter. I’m proud to have read that several representatives and sponsors recognize that women’s bodies, Latina bodies, Puerto Rican women’s bodies, Caribbean women’s bodies, LatiNegra bodies are important. That the abuses our bodies endure are not ones that can be easily rectified. That our bodies have endured so much already, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and that our lives matter too. I hope this will be an opportunity for community members to consider a communal response to ending violence within our communities. I know I will be using this story and other forms of media in my classroom this summer and next semester as I discuss rape, sexual assault, and violence.