The Largest Peruvian Parade in the U.S. in Jeopardy

(Photo via Reporte Hispano)

This year, the inflated clean-up and security costs required by the city of Paterson are threatening to cripple the Peruvian Parade Inc., an event born 31 years ago in that city, and later extended to Passaic and Clifton.

This year, their total fees will reach $45,000, after a resolution adopted by the municipality approved annual increments to these charges beginning in 2015.

Cities including Elizabeth, Union City, West New York, North Bergen and Guttenberg do not currently charge communities such charges.

According to city spokespersons, Newark charges some fees but it is flexible, and is willing to waive these costs by becoming a sponsor. “Typically, that is the cost of police staff [in the form of overtime pay], and it is charged if the parade is held on a holiday or a Sunday. If the parade takes place on a weekday [which only happens on St. Patrick’s Day], on-duty officers are assigned, and there is no additional cost for police or other type of support covered by service personnel. Parade organizers also pay a $250 fee, unless it is waived through the city’s sponsorship.”

They added that “many parades have volunteers who work with them to clean up after the event. Parades that do not make arrangements to clean up the route are charged a clean-up fee.”

The president of the Peruvian Parade, Mario López, told Reporte Hispano that he will be forced to cancel the Paterson event if the municipality does not reduce or annul the fees. In that case, it would only be held in Passaic and Clifton.

“Last year, we paid the city more than $30,000. We are a nonprofit organization, and what we collect we allocate to the community events and the parade and the festival. We cannot afford numbers that high,” said López.

The organizer said that the city of Paterson benefits financially from the Peruvian Parade through direct and indirect taxes, which, he said, is not the case with other national parades.

“Our parade attracts compatriots from other New Jersey cities, from states such as New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, who come here to watch the parade and the festival, considered the largest in the United States,” said López. “They enjoy Peruvian food and buy traditional Peruvian groceries and costumes. That generates more than $250,000 in sales, which stimulates the city’s economy and grows its coffers.”

Paterson Councilman Luis Vélez said that, according to the administration’s reports, the city’s finances are healthy and it is a good moment to ease the economic burden it imposes on the parades held there.

“I was among the people who supported removing that fee on the Peruvian Parade,” Vélez pointed out. “I am not going to present any proposals for now, but if anyone or any group introduces a petition about it in a municipal session, I will second it.”

For his part, Víctor Domínguez, the El Salvador-born president of New Jersey’s Hispanic State Parade, said that the bad example set by Paterson may have an effect on other cities. His parade is one of the largest events in the state, traversing 40 blocks along Bergenline Avenue, crossing four municipalities, and attracting between 20,000 and 60,000 people every year.

“So far, we haven’t had to pay anything except for the insurance we need to show every year. However, in Union City, for example, they are beginning to talk about charging. As of today, we have not received any communications, but those are the rumors,” said Domínguez.

The organizer said that the proliferation of parades marching along the downtown Hudson County avenue is another factor being considered in order to justify the fees.

At the moment, communities from Ecuador, Cuba, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic also have their parades on Bergenline Avenue. Their Colombian and Peruvian counterparts were not held last year.

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