Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Marching bands, beauty queens and Chita Rivera are set to march down New York City's Fifth Avenue tomorrow for the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. It's one of the country's largest ethnic celebrations, with 80,000 marchers and two million onlookers. In the run-up to the parade, rows of street vendors have lined up north of the parade route in New York's East Harlem neighborhood. Hansi Lo Wang of Code Switch, NPR's reporting team on race, ethnicity and culture, has this postcard from New York City.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: This busy street corner is where Gerardo Cruz can help you gear up before the Puerto Rican Day Parade with hats, key chains...

GERARDO CRUZ: Necklace, headband, you name it.

WANG: Do you have underwear?

CRUZ: No underwear, but I got that, look.

WANG: You got the bikini.

CRUZ: The bikini for the girls.

WANG: Swimwear demand, though, can't compete with Cruz's biggest moneymakers: T-shirts and those Puerto Rican flags of red and white stripes and a single star against a blue triangle. How many do you sell a day?

CRUZ: Oh, I could sell maybe about 20 big flags, it depends. 'Cause everybody else got the same type of merchandise.

WANG: And by everybody else, Cruz means his competitors with their tables of merchandise just down the street. You can barely see them behind the throngs of shoppers, couples and baby strollers. Cruz has found a sweet spot of heavy foot traffic and plenty of potential customers at the corner of 116th Street and Third Avenue, where he parks his electric blue car by 9 am and cranks up some salsa beats.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WANG: And sometimes sings a few bars of his own.

CRUZ: (Singing in foreign language) I'm a Boricua, in other words.

WANG: A Boricua - or Puerto Rican - who was born on the island in the Caribbean and who has spent most of his life on the island of Manhattan. But now that Cruz is retired...

CRUZ: I live in Florida now.

WANG: You live in Florida?

CRUZ: Yes.

WANG: So, you come here for the parade?

CRUZ: Yes.

WANG: Cruz may have left New York for Florida and joined one of the country's fastest growing Puerto Rican populations, but in terms of Puerto Rican Day parades, New York City's still takes the cake with its millions of parade watchers. And the city is still home to the largest Puerto Rican community in the United States at more than 700,000. Since 1990, there has been a steady drop in the number of Puerto Ricans living in New York City, and the number of Dominicans, Mexicans and other Latin Americans are on the rise. But Puerto Ricans still make up New York's biggest Latino group. And their pride in their heritage has not wavered. Whenever the parade is in town, just look for the flags. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED BAND: (Singing in foreign language)

SIMON: This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Discussions about race, ethnicity and culture tend to get dicey quickly, so we hold our commenters on Code Switch to an especially high bar. We may delete comments we think might derail the conversation. If you're new to Code Switch, please read over our FAQ and NPR's Community Guidelines before commenting. We try to notify commenters individually when we remove their comments, but given that we receive a high volume of comments, we may not always be able to get in touch. If we've removed a comment you felt was a thoughtful and valuable addition to the conversation, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us by emailing codeswitch@npr.org.

Support comes from: