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Puerto Rican festival returns to Roxbury

Island culture and pride during Sunday parade

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Puerto Rican festival returns to Roxbury
The crowd cheers as the Puerto Rican Parade passes through Egleston Square in Roxbury. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS

By the time the marching band at the head of the Puerto Rican parade reached the intersection of Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road, the tail of the parade was still on Columbus Avenue, making its way toward Egleston Square.

“This is the largest parade we’ve had,” said Edwin Alicea, president of the Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts.

Members of Fuerza Internacional perform to traditional Puerto Rican music during the Puerto Rican Parade in Roxbury. PHOTO: Angela Rowlings

In addition to the usual complement of elected officials and office-seekers, the parade included eight floats, more than 300 classic and custom cars and more than a dozen dance troupes among the 80-or-so official parade entrants.

Puerto Rican flags adorned the shirts and hats of those in the parade and those watching. Cars and vans with massive speaker arrays blasted the salsa, reggaeton, bomba and plena music forms that originated on the island of just over three million people.

After several years in downtown Boston and two years during which the pandemic shut down the parade and festival, the party returned this year to the Franklin Park Playstead area.

Members of the Roberto Clemente 21 Dancers perform during the parade.

From the vantage point inside the parade route, Roxbury had erupted in Puerto Rican pride.

“The crowds are huge,” said Mayor Michelle Wu, who marched with other elected leaders. “It’s amazing to witness the love and enthusiasm here today.”

Whipping up the crowd’s fervor, Jorge Arce led a band playing plena music from a float hosted by Goya Foods.

Arce said he’s glad the festival has returned to Roxbury.

Capito, a fearless chihuahua, barks at a passing horse. PHOTO: ANGELA ROWLINGS


“This is where the community is,” he said. “The Puerto Rican festival belongs to the community.”

In addition to Sunday’s parade, this year’s festival featured three nights of music and carnival rides.

Alicea said the shift back to Franklin Park was necessitated by the ongoing reconstruction of City Hall Plaza. He said he’s not yet sure whether the festival will return to downtown once the plaza work is complete.

“It has not been decided,” he said. “People want us here. But we want to share our culture with everybody. We’ll consider going back to City Hall Plaza, depending on the circumstances.”

Franklin Park, Puerto Rican festival, roxbury