“Festival City” Adds Another Winner

DAVID SEPULVEDA PHOTOSPuerto Rico-like weather, hot and steamy, hovered over the New Haven Green Saturday where over 7,500 celebrants came out for Fiestas Patronales de New Haven, the rich blend of music, dance, food, flag waving, and cultural pride that marked the return of grand-scale celebrating by the greater Puerto Rican community in downtown New Haven.

The festival was organized by Puerto Ricans United (PRU), a new cultural group that put on the event with the help of the city, corporate sponsors, and many volunteers. It had been nearly 8 years since the traditional Puerto Rican parade and associated cultural festivities were part of the New Haven landscape.

Joseph Rodriguez, PRU co-founder and president, said the organization was pleased with the outcome of the event: “It’s a beautiful turn-out given the weather (actually 7 degrees hotter than Puerto Rico on Saturday) with a heat index that felt like 110, and being that it’s the first year, we couldn’t be prouder. We are looking forward to next year,” he said.

Mayor Toni Harp, with Puerto Rico’s flag in hand, greeted the crowd that covered a good portion of the lower green, saying that New Haven thinks of itself as “Festival City” and that this first Puerto Rican festival would not be the last. She invited folks back for the upcoming Opera Palooza (an evening of arias and apizza) on August 20, and to New Haven Jazz Festival on the green on Saturday, August 27.

In a sign of national pride, Puerto Rican flags were waved with abandon. From the smallest flags….

… to the largest, the message was the same: “We are proud to be Puerto Rican.”

In the lead up to the festival’s main attraction, the Grammy-nominated Plena Libre, a music group from Puerto Rico, a number of area Latino bands entertained, offering a wide variety of musical genres from salsa to the more contemporary reggaetón.

Some people chimed in with their own musical instruments.

Others kept the beat with their feet.

Appetites were attended to by vendor trucks selling traditional foods and drink, while others offered myriad forms of red, white, and blue cultural merchandise.

In the evening, bomba dancers from Movimiento Cultural of New Haven took to the stage.

Bomba dancing engages the barriles or bomba drummer in an exchange that is a kind of challenge based on a mutual connection. It is a spirited, beat-for-beat collaboration rooted in the Afro-Puerto Rican traditions of the island.

Just off stage, a large stage flat depicting El Morro, the landmark Spanish fort on the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was the official photo booth provided by Bregamos Community Theater.  Among the steady stream of those taking photo ops with their friends, one photographer held cell phone cameras in both hands.

Behind the photo booth, Lourdes Montalvo, director of constituent services-secretary of the state (left) and Nina Vazquez, volunteer for the Hispanic Federation, worked an information and registration booth, urging passersby to get registered in time for the upcoming presidential election.

Among those in the audience was New Haven’s Director of Arts, Culture, and Tourism Andy Wolf, who flashed a pair of peace signs.

Michelle Retamar of New Haven gave a hearty two thumbs up to the festival and the good time she was having.

During an extended period of sound-checking, a DJ busily played Latin music augmented with a number of curious sound effects. Event hosts rallied the audience with shouts of “Wepa!” (“All right, cool, yeah!”) until the the much anticipated group from Puerto Rico was ready to play.

The music of Plena Libre, with its percussive rhythms and punctuating brass section, filled the thick night air stretching across the New Haven Green, delighting all in attendance. It would be a fabulous end to a day-long festival of new beginnings.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 15, 2016  9:20am

Mayor Toni Harp, with Puerto Rico’s flag in hand, greeted the crowd that covered a good portion of the lower green, saying that New Haven thinks of itself as “Festival City” and that this first Puerto Rican festival would not be the last.

no beba la ayuda del kool siendo implementado de aceite de serpiente que se venden por el liderazgo de edad que han demostrado alchahuetes para el Partido Demócrata

Translate) Do not drink the kool aid being implemented Snake oil being sold by old leadership that have proven to be (lackeys) for the Democratic Party.

Cómo es que no hay signos de detener la legislación PROMESA que re-coloniza el pueblo de Puerto Rico y se niegan a apoyar la liberación de preso político Oscar López Rivera.

(Translate) How come no signs to stop PROMESA legislation that re-colonizes the people of Puerto Rico and refuse to support freeing political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera.

posted by: Rich Pizzo on August 15, 2016  11:13pm

Look at the above pictures….. as so often is the case in new haven, no wood dance floor laid out on the green for the dancers….

The city owns so much stuff for out door musical entertainment, but no wood dance floor for dancers…...

so often the stage has a band playing dance music, and never do they bother to put out a portable wood dance floor for the dancers.

Why? because some one in city hall thinks “let them dance on the grass”. Obviously that person is not a dancer. Not a Partner Dancer…

If the city would buy a portable wood dance floor and set it up right in front of the stage, eventually word would spread and the dancers would start showing up, The Dancers are far more interesting to look at and watch then the few musicians on the stage.

I am amazed that all over Connecticut, out door dance music is performed and no portable wood dance floors for the dancers are provided. This is true in East Haven, North Haven, West Haven, New Haven, and Hamden.

New Haven Park Department doesn’t even own a portable wood dance floor.

Dancing is in our blood, dancing is a social activity, and there are many dancing couples in our community.

Dancing on concrete, on pavement, on grass is a terrible experience for partner Dancers… so many of us take on various injuries trying to dance on theses surfaces.

Put down the dance floors, give it time to permeate the community, and the dancers will come…. FREE ENTERTAINMENT.

And for those who like to sit and listen to the music, they will still be able to sit and listen to the music.

I have been trying for a couple of years now, to get New Haven cities to put out portable wood dance floors for the dancers….. for the community… it’s the social thing to do, its the right thing to do….

posted by: Chip on August 15, 2016  11:18pm

Also on Saturday Puerto Ricans had something massively huge to celebrate! Puerto Rican, Monica Puig, won the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s tennis beating #2 Angelique Kerber! This was the FIRST EVER Olympic Gold Medal for Puerto Rico and first medal ever for a Puerto Rican woman! This is a huge deal! Everyone in Puerto Rico stopped to watch on TV and the streets were empty. But, thanks to NBC, they didn’t even mention it in their evening wrap-ups while lauding Jamaican and Argentinian accomplishments. Last time I checked Puerto Rico was a part of the USA and they are not. Puerto Ricans should be protesting to NBC for their still ongoing slight to Puerto Rico as they still don’t even mention it in their look-backs!