Arriving earlier than expected, a sunshower might have kept down the number of on-lookers to this year’s Hispanic Day Parade, but did nothing to dampen the spirits of the participants as they danced their way up Broadway from Fifth Street on Sunday.
The participants celebrated their Latin heritage with high octane music blasting from speakers on the backs of trucks in styles that including everything from classic Salsa to modified hip-hop, with dancers decked out in colors equally as vibrant, accommodating each style with remarkable agility.
While some onlookers took refuge from the brief shower under store awnings, most stood their ground, letting the light rain wet their brows as they cheered on the parade, some even waving flags from various parts of Latin America. Inside the Bayonne Diner, children wiggled their fingers as they stared out from the booths. Dancers smiled and wiggled and waved, continuing a nearly non-stop dance that lasted for almost 20 blocks.
Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico had dressed for the occasion, wearing a brightly patterned blouse that stood out against the back drop of the other public officials wearing more mundane suits and ties. Those officials included Mayor Mark Smith, members of the City Council, the current Hudson County Sherriff Frank Schillari and his predecessor, Juan Perez, all of whom had become Latino for a day (with the except of Perez, who was Latino all year round as well).
“I wanted to feel festive,” DiDomenico said with a laugh.
“I wanted to feel festive.” – Doreen DiDomenico
Shorter in distance, stopping at 24th Street rather than the traditional route to 39th Street and then west to Stephen R. Gregg Park, the parade had significantly more participants than last year, and it was louder in volume, too. Dancers paused to do routines near what might be called “the Latin Quarter of Broadway,” near 18th Street where crowds were thicker and rivaled the participants in cheers and flag-waving, and then again before a grandstand at 24th Street and Del Monte Drive where the Mayor and other dignitaries reviewed each act.
Near Andrew Street and Broadway, Elaine Bottino stood in her usual spot. Normally dressed in an outfit to reflect the parade – such as an American Flag pants suit for the Memorial Day – she wore a t-shirt that said “Irish.”
When asked why she wore that sweatshirt for this parade, she said, “Because I’m Irish,” but added later, “I have a daughter-in-law that is Puerto Rican.”
Dressed in a blue suit with white tie and hat and a gold watch chain, Adado Mora, curator for the Union City Art Gallery at City Hall, stood before a bright red pre-World War II convertible and said he came to celebrate his Ecuadorian heritage.
“I go to all the parades in Jersey City, Union City and Bayonne,” he said. “Next week I’ll be at the parade in Union City [the Oct. 7 New Jersey Statewide Hispanic Parade which will pass through Union City, West New York and other communities].”
Started in 2004, the Bayonne Hispanic Parade has had an uneven history of success, sometimes disappointingly sparsely attended. Last year, because it competed with a parade in Newark, there were only a handful of participants. This year, however, the line of dancers stretched for almost ten blocks, and filled Broadway with music and cheers.
The new kid on the block as far as parades go, the Hispanic Parade was supposed to reflect the significant change in the ethnic population in Bayonne, making up nearly 18 percent as of 2000 and then jumping to 26 percent with the 2010 national Census.
Organizers hoped that with the growing number of Latinos in Bayonne and throughout the county and state, they could celebrate the diversity of the city by showing another aspect of ethnic culture was alive and well here.