HOLYOKE — Mayor Joshua A. Garcia has been named “Padrino” (“Godfather”) of Boston’s annual Puerto Rican Festival Parade.
The Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts, now in its 57th year, starts on Saturday, July 29, at Boston City Hall plaza. The parade steps off Sunday, July 30, at noon.
As Padrino, Garcia will preside over the popular parade alongside the Festival’s “Madrina and Mariscal” (“Godmother and Marshal”).
Michael Martinez, Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships for the Festival, said the Festival Board voted to honor Mayor Garcia based on “his real commitment to community building and honoring his culture.” Garcia, 37, is Holyoke’s first Puerto Rican Mayor. The City of Holyoke has more Puerto Ricans per capita than any other city in the world outside of the island of Puerto Rico.
Martinez said the Mayor’s role in organizing last year’s Fiestas Patronales de Holyoke was another factor in designating him Padrino.
The Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts started out 56 years ago as little more than a block party in Boston’s South End. Martinez said Puerto Rican community elders, concerned that the younger generation was at risk of losing their “cultural fluency,” created the event to celebrate their culture and roots.
The Festival stretched into the neighborhood of Jamaica Plain and gradually “encircled the city,” Martinez said.
More recently, the Board decided that a Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts ought to be reaching out to other parts of the state.
“We thought of Holyoke,” he said. “We knew the Mayor of Holyoke was Puerto Rican.”
Garcia, recognized for his efforts to unite Latino leaders in the region, will be joined in the march by members of the organizing committee of Fiesta Patronales and leaders from the City of Holyoke as well as Board members of The Springfield Puerto Rican Parade and local leaders from the City of Springfield.
“Springfield Salsa Sal Pá Fuera, and the Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Board are excited to march in support of Mayor Garcia and purposefully show a united front symbolizing the spirit of solidarity, cultural pride, and community strength within the Puerto Rican diaspora in Western Massachusetts” said Sasha Viands, Co-Chair, Springfield Puerto Rican Parade Board.
Salsa Sal Pa Fuera, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advisor Waleska Lugo-DeJesús said, “Working towards racial equity involves creativity, imagination and purpose and must be met with collaboration. Mayor Garcia and I have been friends for years, attending graduate school together, and led many efforts in both Holyoke and Springfield throughout the years. The invitation to support him and march with him as the Padrino in Boston is an honor. I admire how he challenges the status quo and contributes to cultural equity, Felicidades (“Congratulations”) Mayor Garcia.”
Speaking about the collaboration, Mayor Joshua A. Garcia said, “I am honored to have Holyoke join forces with our friends from Springfield to march in the Boston Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts Parade. This collaboration signifies the unity and strength of our Puerto Rican community across the Commonwealth as we celebrate our culture, traditions, and accomplishments. Together, we will proudly showcase our heritage.”