Long-dueling Puerto Rican parades to merge

April 2, 2013

A decades-old duel between Puerto Rican parades in Chicago is over. The group behind a procession through Grant Park every June has agreed to pull the plug on that 48-year-old tradition and channel resources into a lower-budget parade the same day in Humboldt Park, a Northwest Side neighborhood that has been the heart of the city’s Puerto Rican community since the 1960s.

“We’re making history,” Angel Medina, president of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago, said in Spanish at a Tuesday news conference announcing the merger. “Two organizations, for more than 30 years [divided], finally are united and we do it for the good of the community.”

Medina, whose committee sponsored the downtown parade, said holding that event cost roughly $45,000 a year. Medina said that was too much and pointed to dwindling attendance over the years. Starting this year, the committee will co-sponsor the neighborhood parade instead. The committee, meanwhile, will retain sole control of a Humboldt Park carnival that has taken place the same week as the parades.

The Puerto Rican Cultural Center initiated the Humboldt Park parade 35 years ago as a grassroots alternative to the downtown procession. While it has lacked floats as elaborate as those in the downtown parade, the neighborhood event has stood out for its promotion of Puerto Rican national identity and the island’s independence from the United States. 

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) helped broker the merger. “I think it is the right juncture to join both parades so that we can have a large Puerto Rican parade on that very important day for our community,” he said at the news conference.

José López, the cultural center’s executive director, predicted the merger would boost numbers at the Humboldt Park parade, held along West Division Street from North Western Avenue to Sacramento Boulevard. “For our merchants, these are very difficult times,” López said. “We believe this will be a shot in the arm in terms of economic development.”

The groups, both recognized by the federal government as nonprofit organizations, have contracted with Chicago-based Special Events Management to run the parade, planned for June 15 this year.

Chip Mitchell is WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him @ChipMitchell1 and connect with him through Facebook and LinkedIn.