Meriden’s 52nd annual Puerto Rican Festival was all about pride — pride in a common history, pride in a common culture, pride in the music, pride in the distinctive food of the Caribbean island. That pride was felt last Sunday in Hubbard Park, whether by people from Meriden, Bridgeport, New Britain, Waterbury, or from the island itself.
“I want to embrace this culture and this community," Mayor Kevin Scarpati told the crowd assembled in the park. “(Meriden's) Puerto Rican heritage is something we can all be proud of.”
The past few years have been full of trouble for Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory. There was already a government debt crisis in 2017, when the island was hit in rapid succession by two major hurricanes. Irma and Maria did huge damage to the electrical grid and drove many Puerto Ricans to move to the mainland, at least temporarily.
And the current political crisis has left Puerto Rico with a new governor whose legitimacy is being questioned, after street protests led to the ouster of the previous chief executive.
All that bad news was left in the background Sunday, however, as people came together to celebrate what is good.
“We find the good in the bad,” said Emanuel Perez, of Waterbury. “We don't let anyone starve. We don't turn our backs on each other.”
But Sunday was more than just an afternoon of fun, more than the music, more than the single white star on the many Puerto Rican flags on display, more than the music, more than the smells and tastes of yellow rice, roasted pork and plantains.
Why did hundreds of people come together to spend the day in Hubbard Park?
“We don't want to lose that traditional culture,” said Glorimarie Ortiz, of Waterbury.
“You can't lose that.”