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Parade Controversy Centers on Puerto Rico’s Status

The Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago has held a parade in downtown Chicago every year since 1965. The Puerto Rican Cultural Center has been holding its annual parade since 1978 in Humboldt Park, a neighborhood with a higher proportion of Puerto Rican residents.

“A decades-old duel between Puerto Rican parades in Chicago is over,” said an announcement last week, celebrating the fact that the two groups would be uniting in a single parade. Alderman Roberto Maldonado, described as having “helped broker the merger,” hailed the change as an opportunity to unify the community and to have the best possible parade in June.

A few days later, representatives of the two groups had something different to say. “ ‘Merging’ is the wrong term,” Julio Cruz of the Puerto Rican Parade committee was quoted as saying. “Our parade was simply cancelled.” Members of the group see the move from downtown to a Puerto Rican neighborhood as a marginalization of the event, which was intended to showcase Puerto Rican culture for Chicago as a whole.

Other ethnic groups, such as Italian and Irish Chicagoans, hold parades in downtown Chicago, some members pointed out. Organizers countered that the cost for a downtown parade was simply too high.

However, it appears that the controversy is not economic in nature.

Angry backers of the older group have said that they don’t plan to support a combined parade, because the Humboldt Park group supports independence for Puerto Rico. While only a small percentage of Puerto Ricans support the idea of independence for Puerto Rico (about 5%), the newer parade is apparently associated with a group of Chicagoans who support independence, while the downtown parade is associated with a preference for statehood.

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