Candidates March for Votes at Colombian Parade

Both El Diario-La Prensa and Queens Latino covered Sunday’s Colombian Day Parade in Queens, which was very popular this year with mayoral hopefuls looking to connect with the estimated 100,000 New Yorkers of Colombian heritage. The stories are translated and/or excepted below. 

From El Diario-La Prensa by Juan Matossian:

Not all paradegoers enjoyed the many politicians who attended the Colombian Parade but among those interviewed by El Diario, Christine Quinn (left) got the most thumbs up. (Photo by Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

Not all paradegoers enjoyed the many politicians who attended the Colombian Day Parade but among people interviewed by El Diario, Christine Quinn (left) got the most thumbs up. (Photo by Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

Amidst the rejoicing of Colombians celebrating their independence, politicians tried to sneak into the festivities in search of votes. But on the afternoon of Sunday, July 21, it seemed there was neither time nor space for anything except partying and displaying Colombian pride.

Various mayoral candidates showed up at the Colombian Day Parade along Northern Boulevard, from 69th to 86th streets in Queens, attempting to turn the celebration into a forum for Colombians and Latinos of diverse backgrounds to express their political leanings before the upcoming municipal elections.

Joe Lhota, Christine Quinn and Sal Albanese, among others, didn’t miss out on the chance to try to capture the Latino vote, given the popularity of the event which usually attracts between 5,000 and 10,000 people, according to the parade organizers.

Besides marching, the candidates were handing out campaign flyers that explained their platforms and shaking hands with people gathered behind the police barricades. Despite this, many paradegoers expressed indifference and even rejection towards the candidates’ presence.

“I don’t have a favorite candidate; although if I had to choose one, I would vote for Quinn, but I don’t like seeing politicians at our parade,” said Nicolás Acedo, who is Colombian. “We’re here to celebrate something else.”

Alfonso Ramírez, who’s Mexican, ended up with a bunch of flyers from the candidates, but like Acedo, he didn’t have a specific preference.

“I’m generally apolitical and none of these candidates has convinced me,” said Ramírez. “I don’t think that they’re really concerned about Latinos.”

In contrast, Mariana Palacios, who was wearing a soccer jersey from Colombia’s national team, was certain of her choice.

“My favorite is Christine Quinn,” said Palacios. “A woman is always going to do a better job than a man, and she also fights for immigrants.”

Nevertheless, the most welcomed candidate was Sen. Charles Schumer, who received the honor of being the parade’s grand marshal because he is part of the so-called “group of eight,” which drafted the immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate.

“Thank you Schumer!” Sofía Azcarate shouted when she saw him pass by. Azcarate came to the parade with her three children.

Santiago Rodríguez, originally from Cali, Colombia, has been in New York for nine years and took advantage of the event to push for support of the immigration reform bill.

“If the politicians here want Latinos to vote for them and to be interested in what they are saying, they should approve immigration reform beforehand,” asserted Rodríguez.

Some people also came from far away, simply to celebrate their national pride.

“It’s an honor for us to celebrate our national pride and share our traditions with everyone in New York,” said Blanca Ruiz Carvajal, from Colombia, who traveled with her husband for two hours from Long Island to be at the parade.

And of course, an El Diario-La Prensa float joined the Colombian fiesta and commemorated the paper’s 100 years of existence.

“Even though I’m not Colombian, I’m here to celebrate being Latino,” said Osvaldo Mendieta, an Ecuadorean who was watching the parade with a copy of El Diario under his arm and declared his support for Quinn.

“I’ve been here for more than 50 years, but I don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate my Latin American roots.”

However, not everyone was happy with how the parade turned out.

“I’ve sold almost nothing,” complained Gustavo Ecuador, who was walking around with a bunch of Colombian flags. “Not as many people come and not as many spend money like they used to.”

From Queens Latino, by Javier Castaño:

Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, a latecomer to the race who is neck and neck in the polls with Quinn, marched with his wife, Huma Abedin (left). (Photo by Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, a latecomer to the race who is neck and neck in the polls with Quinn, marched with his wife, Huma Abedin (left). (Photo by Javier Castaño, via Queens Latino)

This being an election year, the ones who took the most advantage of the Colombian Day Parade were the politicians.

Sen. Charles Schumer was shouting ceaselessly, “Long live immigration reform!” and then asking, “Where are the Colombians?”

Next to him were Sen. José Peralta; Assemblyman Francisco Moya; Congresswoman Grace Meng; Councilman and Queens Borough President candidate Peter Vallone, and state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who is running for public advocate. Reshma Saujini also marched to promote her campaign for public advocate.

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer marched as well. He is running for city comptroller and was lucky that his opponent, former governor Eliot Spitzer, who is leading in the polls, wasn’t there.

Speaking of polls, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for mayor, blew kisses and gave out hugs while she marched next to Patricia Mahecha and other members of the Queens Women’s Chamber of Commerce, who were wearing matching white and green outfits.

“Colombia with Christine Quinn until the end!” shouted Mahecha.

Quinn’s rival, former congressman Anthony Weiner, who is running neck and neck with her in recent polls, was very proud marching next to his wife.

“I’m very happy that I’m leading in the polls, but I need to win the final race on election day,” said Weiner. “I love this community and I’ve always been concerned about their progress.”

“These politicians are very interesting and they are paying attention to the Colombian community in New York,” said Marta Rengifo, while waving the tri-colored Colombian flag.

Democrat Erick Salgado, who is running for mayor, also marched, along with Joe Lhota, a candidate on the Republican line.

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