A Brief History of the Puerto Rican Day Parade

Michael Wynne
 | June 10, 2024

It’s that time of year again. Puerto Ricans, aka Boricuas, united for the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. For over 60 years, the celebration has filled the streets of New York City with music, dance, and the rich cultural heritage of Puerto Rico. 

“The event has grown to become the largest demonstration of ethnic and cultural pride in New York City,” ABC News explains. “It is one of the largest parades in the country.”

In fact, the parade is only second to New York’s famous Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. So how did it all come about, you ask? On the day after all of the festivities, let’s look at a brief history of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

A Brief History of the Puerto Rican Day Parade

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade began in 1958 in Spanish Harlem, a neighborhood of Manhattan that saw the biggest growth of Spanish-speaking immigrants. It replaced the former Hispanic Day Parade, marking a shift away from generic celebrations toward culturally specific expressions. It all was a response to earlier attempts at unifying the largest influx of Puerto Rican immigrants the city had ever seen.

Today, the parade takes place on the second Sunday of June, from Fifth Avenue and 44th Street to 86th Street. And its mission is to promote cultural recognition, education, economic development, and self-esteem, honoring Puerto Rican history and achievements.

“ … New York boasts the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world, with the 2013 Census reporting 1,103,067 Puerto Ricans living in New York State,” the travel site Culture Trip explains.

Cultural Pride and Unity

Nuyoricans will tell you that nothing celebrates la cultura quite like New York’s National Puerto Rican Day Parade. It remains the largest display of cultural pride for the million Puerto Ricans in the United States. It attracts many celebrities and politicians from the Tri-State area, making it the only Latino heritage parade on Fifth Avenue. Notably, it is the oldest and longest-running Latino heritage parade in New York City.

The parade honors the 3.2 million inhabitants of Puerto Rico and all people of Puerto Rican birth or heritage residing on the U.S. mainland. Held annually on the second Sunday in June, it attracts celebrities, politicians, and millions of spectators along its iconic route on Fifth Avenue.

Evolution and Expansion

In 1995, the parade became incorporated as the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, expanding beyond the parade itself. Today, it hosts over seven major events throughout the city, including street fairs and cultural celebrations.

The heart of the parade remains at 116th Street between Lexington and Second Avenues.

While the largest Puerto Rican cultural parade is in New York City, other cities with significant Puerto Rican populations, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston, also hold notable parades and festivals.

Feature image: National Puerto Rican Day Parade. June 11, 2023, New York, USA: The National Puerto Rican Day Parade which is the largest demonstration of cultural pride takes place on 5th Avenue in New York with people lining up the avenue dancing and cheering — Photo by thenews2.com; courtesy of DepositPhotos.

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Photo courtesy New Africa/DepositPhotos.
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