Emotional Mass Precedes National Puerto Rican Day Parade

Twelve members of musical ensemble Tuna Mayagüezana played at the Catholic mass. (Photo by Víctor Matos via El Diario)

Twelve members of musical ensemble Tuna Mayagüezana played at the Catholic mass. (Photo by Víctor Matos via El Diario)

On Sunday, Puerto Rican flags, music and traditions filled St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the emotional Mass that’s held every year to off the last week of activities before the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, taking place this Sunday, June 14.

The Catholic ceremony was enlivened by the music of the Tuna Mayagüezana ensemble. The 12 members of the group performed songs in various traditional rhythms from the so-called “Isle of Enchantment,” lending a tropical flavor to the ceremony. Over 350 people were in attendance.

“This mass is the foundation of our people, our traditions and our renewal, which signifies our present and our future,” said a visibly-touched Lorraine Cortés-Vásquez, president of the board of directors of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Ismael Lebrón, who sat in the audience holding a Puerto Rican flag, described his preparations for the event every year around this time as “un verano en Nueva York” (“a summer in New York”), echoing a famous song by iconic salsa group El Gran Combo.

Like every June, Lebrón flew in from [the San Juan neighborhood of] Hato Rey to visit his relatives in the Bronx. “It is during these types of events that you feel the proudest to be Puerto Rican outside of the island.”

María Román, co-founder of the parade, said that “this is the beginning of what is most sacred to us: family, religious faith and its significance among Latinos.”

The mass, a tradition for over two decades, was dedicated to the memory of former Rep. Herman Badillo, writer Yosef Alfredo Antonio Ben-Jochannan, activists Isabel “Isabelita” Rosado and Louis Núñez, actors Braulio Castillo and Álex Soto, and singer Lucy Fabery.

An aguinaldo (a musical gift traditionally sung in Latin America during the Christmas holidays and in church services) was performed at the end of the ceremony.

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