THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Festival has moving conclusion

Puerto Rican pride on display in city

Dressed in the colors of the flag of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Fuerza International Dance Group marched near the front during the Puerto Rican Day Parade along Columbus Avenue in Roxbury yesterday. Dressed in the colors of the flag of the commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Fuerza International Dance Group marched near the front during the Puerto Rican Day Parade along Columbus Avenue in Roxbury yesterday. (Pat Greenhouse/ Globe Staff)
By Stewart Bishop
Globe Correspondent / July 25, 2011

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Thousands of brightly dressed revelers lined Columbus Avenue in Roxbury yesterday for the Puerto Rican Day Parade on the third and final day of Boston’s 45th annual Puerto Rican Festival.

Drill and drum squads danced elaborate routines, people in costumes played to the crowd, tiara-topped young women in formal dresses waved, and spectators moved to the beat of pulsating Latin music.

“It’s part of what makes Boston a great city,’’ said Apolo Cátala, who sits on the board of directors for the festival. “Just like everyone is an Irishman on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Puerto Rican during the Puerto Rican Day Parade.’’

As he stood wrapped in the one-starred, red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flag and held his 1-year-old daughter, Kitana, Anthony Figueroa, 19, of Jamacia Plain, said he’s been coming to the parade every year since he was a child.

“It’s always good. My parents, they brought me and now I’m bringing my daughter,’’ said Figueroa, who was also accompanied by Keena, his small Yorkshire Terrier mix, wrapped in her own Puerto Rican flag.

“We all get together, we put our differences aside and we just all come out as one big old family.’’

State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Boston Democrat whose Second Suffolk district is home to a sizable Latino population, said the Puerto Rican Festival was a great way to honor the contribution that the Puerto Rican community makes to the region.

“It’s always a good time; rain or shine, it’s a good celebration,’’ Chang-Diaz said. “All of the summer festivals, whether it’s the Puerto Rican, the Dominican, the Caribbean, it’s really nice because it’s a hometown pride thing . . . for people who are of that culture.

“But,’’ she added, “you also have a lot of people who are not necessarily of that festival culture who are still celebrating it and appreciating the diversity and richness it brings to the city. Not to mention economic benefits it brings.’’

Although the festival has suffered financial difficulties in recent years, organizers said this year’s event was on sound footing.

“We are taking steps to institutionalize the way the festival is run,’’ Cátala said. “Financially we’re stable, we can pay our bills. We’re proud that we can do that.’’

For many Puerto Ricans among the spectators and in the parade, the day represented a way to remember their attachment to friends and family still on the island, and to celebrate their unique piece of America.

“It’s about the culture, the music, the people, it’s about Puerto Rico always being united,’’ said Edwin Ribera as he marched down the street wearing a decorated straw hat and waving two Puerto Rican flags.

Ribera said he has come to every Boston’s Puerto Rican Festival for the past 42 years.

“It’s a pleasure to be here, I never miss one day,’’ he said.

Stewart Bishop can be reached at sbishop@globe.com