Flags, cheers, honking horns, revving motorcycles and music filled Penn Street as the Second Annual Puerto Rican Day Parade was held Sunday.
For a trio of friends, the event was a chance to connect with who they are and celebrate their culture.
Diamelis Santiago, 18, a Reading Area Community College student, showed up at the corner of Fourth and Penn streets about an hour before the parade began. She was with her friends Kaitlyn Lauer, 19, and Bryant Rodriguez, 13. They wore shirts with the red white and blue Puerto Rican flag on them.
“We’re here to celebrate being Puerto Rican,” Santiago said. “To celebrate and embrace it.”
Santiago wrapped a flag around her as the crowd cheered the groups in the parade that showcased various aspects of the community. At the front of the parade came a fire company from Schuylkill County, a Jeep enthusiast group, a motorcycle club, kids from boxing gym and Reading High School’s Junior ROTC. There were many more.
Coordinators for the event expected a crowd of about 15,000, but an official attendance total would not be available until Monday, said Christian Crespo, communications coordinator for Reading.
The parade, led by Mayor Eddie Moran, the city’s first Latino mayor, began near Reading Area Community College and proceeded down Penn Street to City Park, where the Greater Reading Salsa Festival was held.
The event was presented by the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce, I-LEAD Inc. and La MEGA, a Latino radio station in Allentown.
The first parade was held in 2019. The pandemic cancelled the 2020 parade.
The Latino population in Reading rose by more than 14,000 from 2010 to 2020. Latinos are 69% of the city’s population. The Census Bureau defines Hispanic or Latino as an ethnicity, not a race, so Latinos can be of any race.
In Reading, the population growth was fastest among people born in Puerto Rico, according to the Census. From 2014 to 2018, the city saw an increase of about 2,300 U.S. citizens who hailed from the Caribbean island.
Source: Berkshire mont