New York City on Sunday hosted the National Puerto Rican parade to highlight recovery efforts in the USA territory, months after Hurricane Maria slammed into the island, resulting in widespread devastation.
"This is a very important parade and a very meaningful parade given the tragedy and the devastation of the homeland", Louis Maldonado, National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) Board Chair, said ahead of the march.
This year's 61 annual celebration was unlike any other with spectators looking to celebrate their heritage and spotlight Puerto Rico's hardships and lagging support the island has received following the devasting effects of Hurricane Maria.
The organizers say the marching contingents will include one made up of Puerto Ricans who are in the US mainland only because they were displaced from their homes on the island. The parade also honored first responders and others who stepped up to help with both emergency efforts and ongoing recovery work.
The official death count from the hurricane is 64, even though a recent study by Harvard University and Puerto Rico's Carlos Albizu University estimates that there were as many as 4,645 hurricane-related deaths, many of them attributable to the collapse of the electric power grid.
"People have really turned the page on everything that happened past year", Maldonado said. Along the parade route, people carried signs with tributes like "New York Stands with Puerto Rico", "You will not be forgotten" and "Decolonize Puerto Rico".
Cuomo said the death toll from Hurricane Maria stands at 4,500 - more than twice as many that died in Louisiana's infamous Hurricane Katrina - yet the amount earmarked by Washington to help fix the island's infrastructure has been paltry.
"We've never been in this kind of situation before and we don't want to reach this point", she said.
'Maria unmasked that we are a colony, ' said Pabon, 66, of the Bronx.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had harsh words before the parade for President Trump's ineffective hurricane relief efforts.
At least one parade participant, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., said the parade needs to take a political tone.
"It would be a missed opportunity this Sunday.if we don't show an act of solidarity, an act of protest, an act of defiance", he said, "to let the world know we still have a president and Congress that still has not done right by 3.5 million Americans".
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He's just an unbelievable horse. "I was going to bring four (horses) but I didn't want to buck those odds of, like past year ". He pricked his ears at the sound of the shutter clicks and when Baffert led him closer, he playfully bit at one camera.