MERIDEN — The local Ecuadorian community brought music, dancing and color to snowy city streets as an inflatable nativity scene on a holiday-themed float led a parade Saturday morning for St. Rose of Lima Church’s Divino Niño celebration.
“It gives me a sense of pride that we are all here as one nation,” said Albert Ruperti, of Meriden. “It brings back memories of what my parents would teach me about Ecuador.”
The procession, which started on Gale Avenue, was centered around two columns of men and women dressed in traditional clothing of indigenous Ecuadorians. The columns danced for just over a mile to the music of the band marching behind them, flanked on both sides by women with bouquets of flowers.
The procession ended at St. Rose of Lima Church on Center Street, where many went inside to attend a Mass in Spanish.
“My message today to them was talking about a better future,” said St. Rose Pastor James Manship, speaking after his sermon. He said he spoke about the importance of prioritizing family, culture and language.
“These are really important celebrations in the life of a Latino Catholic and the life of the church,” he said.
Divino Niño, or Divine Child, he said, is a nine-day celebration of the birth of Jesus celebrated across South and Central America.
Having visited Ecuador and other Central American countries, Manship views these events as a way to get to know members of his church better and to strengthen the overall Meriden community.
“It keeps me praying more deeply and coming to know the lord Jesus through the people I’m called to be with,” he said.
Manship said bystanders of other ethnic groups were attracted by the procession.
“They've never seen anything like this here before. It makes people very excited,” he said.
“It’s the whole community of Meriden ... together,” said Hector Pamora, one of the men dancing in indigenous clothing. He also saw many non-Ecuadorians join the march to show support.
“We’re a growing Ecuadorian community,” Pamora said. He hopes to see more events like this in Meriden to bring Ecuadorians closer together and learn about Meriden.
“I love the colors, I love the music. They’re celebrating their culture and that’s amazing,” said Marisol Estrada, a member of the city’s Board of Education.
“To me, this is amazing that we have all these diverse cultures,” she said. “Meriden is a melting pot of diverse cultures from around the world.”