When I picked up my newborn son from the hospital on Sunday and finally brought him and my wife home, I had the unexpected pleasure of driving through Hartford’s Puerto Rican Day parade in order to get to and from the hospital. In doing so, I learned a great deal about this parade, which I never even knew existed until Sunday.
Among the more memorable observations:
- In truth, I didn’t drive through the actual parade, which began at 11:00 AM and finished well before 1:00 PM. I arrived in the neighborhood around 2:00 PM, and although the marching bands and parade floats had been gone for more than an hour, the Puerto Rican people had taken to the streets in cars decked out with the Puerto Rican flag and commenced an impromptu, amoeba-like extension of the parade that oozed its way into every corner of the neighborhood.
- I’ve never seen people more excited about a parade. The amount of pride that Puerto Ricans possess for their cultural heritage is second to none.
- Automobile safety, particularly in terms of seatbelts and the general practice of keeping the humans inside the vehicle, is apparently optional, and perhaps even frowned upon, on the day of the parade. I saw vans packed with humanity driving down streets with children as young as 7 or 8 years old hanging out of the vehicle by one arm. I saw a guy driving his Toyota Corolla in traffic with his head protruding through the sun roof. I saw children standing in the backs of moving pick-up trucks and lying prone on the hoods of moving cars. I saw a car drive by with its trunk popped open. Stuffed inside, waiving tiny Puerto Rican flags, were at least half a dozen people, twisted together in what appeared to be a human version of the Gordian knot.
- The constant, incessant blaring of car horns was apparently required by anyone driving a car with a Puerto Rican flag affixed to it. This constant blaring was often augmented by the use of trumpets, vuvuzelas and drums, all stuffed within the confines of these vehicles.
- Though the were streets were filled with these loud, overstuffed vehicles, nary a pedestrian could be found. Bizarre.
- Traffic lights served only as suggestions following the parade. I quickly learned to drive through intersections at my own risk.
- Clothing above the waist is optional for both men and women.
I’ll have to remember to tell Charlie about this last one when he is old enough to appreciate it.