Have you ever noticed recurring themes in your life? Well, one recurring theme for me is parades. Not going to parades, but actually being in parades.
It all started back when my Immaculata High School classmates and I were made to walk in the Columbus Day Parade - I was a flag twirler! I didn't particularly care for it, but I marched and twirled nonetheless. Through the years I have walked in numerous parades (some of my own volition and some with coaxing by friends); from the Puerto Rican Day Parade, to the Village Halloween Parade, to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade and the Dance Parade. Numerous times.
Being an Arts Administration graduate student now, one of the program requirements is to get a professional internship. Last November, the opportunity arose to apply for an internship at one of my most beloved cultural institutions: El Museo del Barrio. And when I found out they would particularly need me to assist in the production of their 42nd Annual Three Kings Day Parade, I thought to myself: of course, this makes perfect sense!
For the purposes of this blog post, I won't go into detail about the work that was done leading up to the parade, but suffice to say El Museo's entire staff puts in a lot of time and energy preparing for this huge annual event which pays homage to the Caribbean/Latin American holiday tradition connecting with the surrounding community. In addition to the actual parade, there's a breakfast and awards ceremony immediately beforehand and a celebration with live performances after - so it's like three events in one. As an intern, I was working between two departments - Public Programming, and Marketing and Communications. Leading up to the parade, I helped with whatever was needed. I was not aware of where I would be stationed on the big day. And then I met Rhina.
Rhina "La Reina" Valentin, a well-known host of BronxNet TV show Open, was to host El Museo's first ever Facebook Live feed of the parade. It was a great match since Rhina is a super-energetic host and (as I would soon learn) knows just about everyone in El Barrio. Rhina's partner in crime, Spock, was there to help produce the show, along with Alo from the East Harlem Culture Collective on camera/tech duty. I became a defacto Production Assistant. I'd never worked in film production before, but since I had a level of familiarity with parades, I was up for the task.
Early on Friday morning, January 4th, 2019 when people started pouring in to El Museo for the breakfast, we started by grabbing a few honorees for interviews - Dr. Betty Rosa, Hiram Maristany, and Jorge Ramos, all dressed in amazing regalia. From there the award ceremony, hosted by comedien Victor Cruz, began with remarks from elected officials like Melissa Mark Viverito, Gayle Brewer, and Ruben Diaz Jr. This year's theme was "Advocacy in Action" and all of the Kings, Madrinas and Padrinos being honored embodied that spirit in some way. King Emeritus, Jesus "Papoleto" Melendez graced us with a powerful poem before the awards were distributed.
Suddenly, a lively parranda appeared and lead us over to the parade route, starting at 106th and Park. It was hard to miss the giant puppets created by artist Polina Porras, representing the Three Kings, awaiting us along with lots and lots of school children wearing crowns. Rhina immediately went into full gear, sprinting effervescently through the parade interviewing so many people - and even dancing a few times along the way. Alo filmed the livestream without a break from the start to the end of the parade where we finally met the Three Kings and the three (live!) camels.
Another parade under my belt.
In the end, it was an amazing event to participate in. The fact that El Museo has carried on this tradition for 42 years is a feat in and of itself. It's a beautiful tribute to Three Kings Day, to El Barrio, to Caribbean, Latinx and Latin American communities; and a lovely demonstration of maintaining important cultural traditions within a rapidly-changing neighborhood.
I managed to snap some candid shots and video clips along the way. I have posted them below, along with the Facebook live links from EL Museo's Facebook page. To see more of my photos, check out IG @whippedhoney.
|Rhina interviewing Dr. Betty Rosa while Alo films.|
|Rhina interviewing Hiram Maristany with Three Kings puppets in the background.|
|Ruben Diaz Jr. addressing the crowd at the award ceremony.|