The Hispanic Columbus Day Parade (Part 1)

I didn’t have high expectations of the Hispanic Columbus Day Parade, but I’m happy to say that I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.  Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the whole thing.  For the second time in two weeks, I just got weary of the standing around.  It was cool and windy, which were a little irritating two hours in (I was only in a long-sleeved shirt) but the fact that it started 90 minutes late (and I got there 30 minutes before that) that was the deciding factor.

Anyway, enough complaining about how the NYC dot gov “events calendar” got yet another parade time wrong!  In any event, it looks like parade season is slowing down so that’s becoming a moot point.

Back to the parade.  This was one of your top-of-the-line Fifth Avenue parades that starts at 44th Street and goes up to 86th.  That takes it right past Central Park.  I wasn’t up that high.  In fact, I stood at 57th right outside the Apple Store and right across the street from the Plaza Hotel (still closed for huge renovations).

The crowd was pretty good, but the cool wind may have kept a lot of others away.  The crowd waxed and waned during the parade, but it was never close to being deserted.

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It started in typical fashion:  cops on horses, and then a parade standard:  a marching band from Mother Cabrini High School.  They’re good, but sometimes you wonder if the poor kids in that band ever get to have a weekend to themselves.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-01-mother-cabrini-band.jpg

I’m expecting to break this parade into two parts, so let me get something off my chest before I get into the typical descriptions that I do.

Hispanic Columbus Day?  As opposed to Columbus Day?  At first blush, I sympathize:  the Italians have co-opted Columbus Day and turned it into their celebration.  But it was Spain that sent Columbus.  The people of Central and South America want their own parade to celebrate and that’s great with me.  But why call it “Columbus Day” as Columbus was definitely not there for the two hours or so that I observed.  The closest they came was in the name of the country of Columbia.  No mention of Christopher at all.  It is a reaction to the perception of his being the spoiler of pristine cultures (not that I accept that view, myself)?  As you’ll see in some of the pictures, there’s very little of the European descent in a lot of the participants, but I’m not the one who named the parade after the guy they are ignoring.

End of my minor rant.  You know, I’ve done two complaints so far, which is a bit ridiculous.  The parade was fine.  In fact, it was mighty fine.  The crowd looked pretty sedate, and mostly remained sedate; but I tell you that the marchers made up for it.  I don’t know if there was something special about being at the location I was at, but when the bulk of the parade came by there was a bit of a “dance storm”.  You just couldn’t hold those folks back.  They were terrific and their enthusiasm was more than enough to make up for being late or ignoring the parade’s namesake.

I said the crowd was “pretty sedate”.  There was one character who wasn’t.  Not even close.  This guy went the extra mile in showing his enthusiasm.  Did he dance?  No.  Did he call out to the crowd?  Nope.  Did he wear a funny costume?  No…but he had enough piercings to qualify.  So, what did he do?  Well, he played the conch.  Yep, a conch shell.  I don’t know how many times the guy let loose with it, but well over a dozen.  The poor guy would get so red in the face that you’d worry for him.

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The little girl and I share and appreciation of a unique enthusiast.  I wouldn’t have any for someone blowing a horn or, worse, using an air horn.  But a conch blower?  That’s class.

Of course, how that item coincides with some of the cultures (including the landlocked Bolivians who took up a huge portion of the marchers that I saw) is a bit problematic.  Nonetheless, it was great.

One of the first marchers was a bit of a herald for what was to come…Bolivians.   Yeah, that’s what she was advertising…Bolivians.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-03-bolivian-flag-bearer.jpg

The parade started with a lot of the usuals:  delays between floats, a lack of music (until the dancers showed up), and the usual groups of unrecognizable (to me) dignitaries.

It also had that very Hispanic sort of group:  bagpipers.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-09-bagpipers-without-kilts.jpg

But these bagpipers were unique:  no kilts!  They didn’t even have a tartan!  Has the bagpipe truly transcended cultures?  Actually, I’d say it has.

Other significant items the parade had were cars.  And these cars had a difference.  I don’t know if this is some sort of cultural issue, but their hoods almost always looked like this:

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-04-bolivian-car.jpg

Sometimes, like the above, it was household knickknacks like the llamas and musical instruments.  But I seemed to notice a lot of them with kitchenware.  The next one is from Argentina.

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There were quite a few beauty queens (they were always referred to as “Reina”).  Here’s one of the few named ones:  Mayra Alexandra.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-07-reina-del-desfile-mayra-alexandra.jpg

Here’s another:  Elizabeth Vila.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-10-beauty-queen-elizabeth-vila.jpg 

The Daily News’ beauty queen.

 20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-14-daily-new-beauty-queen.jpg

A queen from Argentina.  (She was perched in a car that was advertising a Honda dealership.)

 20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-13-argentina-beauty-queen.jpg

 The next were from Chile.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-47-chilean-beauty-queens.jpg

And from Ecuador…or is it Equador?  No matter:  they had two.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-62-ecuadorian-beauty-queen.jpg

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-63-ecuadorian-beauty-queen-alexandra.jpg

And some young “reinas” who may have been Ecuadorian/Equadorian.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-64-young-beauty-queens.jpg

And some from El Salvador.

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And, also from El Salvador, Reina Margarita Martinez.

20071014-hispanic-columbus-day-71-el-salvador-beauty-queen-margarita-martinez.jpg

Much like the “Miss Polonias” of my previous posts (here and here), these nations just love to show off their attractive young ladies.  And we just love being shown off to.

So, it is at least two posts.  Tomorrow I hope to post the native costumes and dancers.  They were so very, very, very good.

-H

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