Colombians Celebrate Independence and Peace in Queens

Consul of Colombia in New York María Isabel Pérez (left). (Photo by Camille Padilla Dalmau via El Diario)

Consul of Colombia in New York María Isabel Nieto Jaramillo (left) (Photo by Camille Padilla Dalmau via El Diario)

While dancing the cumbia and waving the tricolor flag on Sunday, the Big Apple celebrated Colombia’s Independence Day in Queens. The sixteenth edition of the Colombian Parade took place on Northern Boulevard from 69th Street to 86th Street from noon until 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Around 1,200 people participated in the parade and thousands more watched. The area’s elected officials like Council members Daniel Dromm and Julissa Ferreras also took part in the parade, in addition to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and the Consul of Colombia in New York María Isabel Nieto Jaramillo.

Council member Dromm said that he has participated in the parade since before he became a member of the City Council. “Jackson Heights is the multicultural capital of the world and the Colombian community is a big part of this and it is great to celebrate diversity here with yellow, blue, and red,” he said.

The celebration in Jackson Heights brought together Colombians in New York. Ariana Prieto, 16, who participated as queen of the float for Comfort Adult Day Care, a center for the elderly, said that she felt very proud of Colombia, even though she was born and raised in New York City. “I grew up eating in Colombian restaurants, going to family celebrations, and listening to the music,” said the young girl.

Instilling Colombian culture was very important for her father, Héctor Prieto, 45. “For me, the most important thing that a father can give his kids is his culture and way of being,” he said, regretting that some Hispanic cultures do not pass their traditions on to children.

This feeling was felt not just in the parade’s participants, but also in the spectators, where many families were seen. Carlos Ordoñez has come to the parade since its inception. “They believe themselves to be Colombian, but they were born here,” he said of his children, who were wearing yellow Colombian soccer jerseys. Ordoñez and his wife, Patricia Lozano, say that their children, Daniela and Jean Carlos, follow their traditions.

Among the floats were also banners for El Diario, Goya, and local restaurants. Latino firefighters and the Local 79 Union, which had one of the biggest groups, also participated. Certain foundations based in New York that help children in Colombia, like Primero lo Primero and Corazón a Corazón, were also present to raise awareness about their organizations.

Lisandro Meza, a Colombian singer and accordionist, was awarded the title of King of the Parade for the first time. “I am happy because this is a tribute to what I have done for my folklore,” said the Colombian music icon.

The festival had national and international honorees to show solidarity between Colombia and other Latin American countries.

But in addition to celebrating being Colombian, people also celebrated the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC. “Colombia is going through a very special moment because we just signed the peace process in Havana and people are extremely excited, happy that Colombia is going to create a peaceful country and that many will be able to return to our country,” said the Consul.

Some Colombians in New York, however, are not satisfied with the agreement. “I am very much against impunity, very much against Santos bringing a few guerrillas to the country,” said Nydia Pautt, 70.

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On the El Diario float were three singers from different genres: Maui García, Julio Calderón “El Gallo,” and Juan Carlos Almanza.

They and many others who attended expressed the importance of showing a positive side to Colombia. “Every day, we are breaking down new barriers in terms of what people think and believe about Colombians,” said García, a salsa choque singer. “So a message for all of the people who believe that Colombia is more than war: we are making peace and we are 100 percent committed to our social and cultural causes,” he said.

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