Sunday, June 14, 2009

Puerto Rican Day Parade

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade is taking place today in New York City. A few years ago, we headed into Manhattan on a Sunday without realizing it was Puerto Rican Day. We figured it out as soon as we were jammed in traffic on the 79th Street transverse, as Puerto Ricans waving their flags filtered by us. I had forgotten about this until I hit Google while writing this post, but there was a Seinfeld episode that featured the main characters stuck in traffic due to the Puerto Rican Day Parade. From The New York Times:

Faced with criticism from the leader of a Puerto Rican organization who found the ''Seinfeld'' episode on Thursday insulting, NBC apologized yesterday, saying it had not intended to offend anyone.

The second-to-last ''Seinfeld'' featured Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer driving back from a Mets game and getting stuck in a traffic jam created by the Puerto Rican Day parade. At one point, Kramer tossed a sparkler and accidentally lighted a Puerto Rican flag on fire. He tried putting out the burning flag by stomping on it.

Angry paradegoers then began chasing Kramer. When they lost him, the mob began shaking Jerry's empty car and threw it down a stairwell. Kramer remarked that ''it's like this every day in Puerto Rico.''

The scene was an ''unconscionable insult'' to Puerto Ricans, said the president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, Manuel Mirabal.

''It is unacceptable that the Puerto Rican flag be used by 'Seinfeld' as a stage prop under any circumstances,'' Mr. Mirabal said.

The Bronx Borough President, Fernando Ferrer, who is Puerto Rican, said the ''Seinfeld'' episode ''crossed the line between humor and bigotry.'' Mr. Ferrer said it was a slur to depict men rioting and vandalizing a car and suggesting that it happens every day in Puerto Rico.

As long as they keep holding the parade on the second Sunday each June, we won't make that mistake again. That's not a certainty, because the date of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade was chosen somewhat arbitrarily, as it's not based on any particular historical date. It isn't held on the anniversary of Puerto Rico's independence, because Puerto Rico isn't independent. That point was made, pithily and humorously, by The Onion a few years ago.

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