ROCHESTER — Three days of warm sunshine and tropical-like breezes drew more than 20,000 people to the 47th-annual Puerto Rican Festival earlier this month.
A record-breaking crowd of 8,000 people filled the festival site at Frontier Field’s VIP lot throughout the day and night on Aug. 6. A huge throng of people of all ages crowded in front of the stage for the headliners on the second night of the festival — Charlie Aponte and J Alvarez. Many couples also danced salsa as the music played.
Music is one of Hamlin resident Osilia Puron’s favorite aspects of the festival. Puron, who moved to Rochester from her native Cuba in 1974, tries to attend every year because she also enjoys the food and the festival reminds her of Cuba, she said.
"It makes me feel like I’m with my people," she said.
Instilling pride is one of the reasons Iris Santiago brings her 7-year-old son, Jadriel, to the festival and parade every summer. She was born and raised in Rochester and her parents are from Cidra, Puerto Rico.
The mother and son were among the hundreds of people who lined the route for the 12th-annual Puerto Rican Parade on Aug. 6, which started at the Liberty Pole Way and ended at the festival site.
Jadriel waved a Puerto Rico flag almost as tall as he as the floats marched by him.
"I make sure he understands that Puerto Rico is where he comes from," Santiago added.
Three Latina pioneers were honored during the parade’s opening ceremony. Belen Colón, a community activist, and Hilda Rosario Escher, head of Ibero-American Action League, served as the parade’s grand marshals. Elena Goldfeder, a playwright and former director of Nazareth College’s Casa Hispana, received the Father Tracy Award for support of Latino arts and theater.
Goldfeder said she was accepting the award not only for herself but also for her husband of 53 years, Arthur, who died in December.
"Our strength is our diversity," Goldfeder said. "(But) we’ve got to keep the (Spanish) language going … and take pride in the language. That’s what we have in common."