For the past several years, I have worn several hats at the Puerto Rican Festival.
I am a reporter, naturally, covering the festival and parade with El Mensajero Católico photographers Mike Crupi and Tamara Tirado. I’m a proud mamá as my daughter has performed with Borinquen Dance Theatre.
And, I am a proud Puerto Rican woman.
Unfortunately, when I recount the positive news and fun that I’ve had at the festival with my family, the dark cloud of negative press persists after the event concludes.
I share festival president Orlando Ortiz’s frustration that his committee must hold a press conference annually with the Rochester Police Department to recount arrests and incidents. And this year, only one trespassing arrest even took place at the festival site. The majority of the incidents occur in northeast Rochester neighborhoods, particularly North Clinton and Clifford avenues, and police acknowledge many of those arrested don’t even attend the festival.
But I also feel frustration when a fellow reporter asks, "When do you say enough is enough?" and should the city consider shutting down a more than 40-year-old cultural tradition.
Does anyone suggest scrapping the Park Avenue Festival because of disorderly incidents that have taken place in those neighborhoods? No.
But I do agree that enough is enough regarding the actions of those who mar these community events. The Puerto Rican Festival draws huge names in Latino music because it is a well-organized, safe event and should not be penalized because of the actions of a few.
I hope Geena Cruz, the parade coordinator, fulfills her mission to draw out the people that cause the incidents and get them to participate in the parade. I also challenge the entire Latino community to do their part to ensure the festival’s image is a totally positive one next year!