Walking out of the subway on 5th ave and 59th street I could already feel the energy and chaos of the Puerto Rican Day Parade before my head was even above ground. I know it sounds cheesy, but that excitement of the people melts my heart…these are the moments that life is about and make New York classic. The city was buzzing like a good war was about to happen. This New York City parade is massive. It is surreal to see the same streets you walk every day smothered with red, white, and blue Puerto Rican flags swarming with like-minded people ready to party. The majority of the crowd are people living truthfully to who they truly are…this is not your artsy fartsy Chelsea crowd or lifeless anorexic fashion set or stuck up wall street businessmen.It has been the longest, drawn out winter-especially since hurricane sandy, and it’s the first week of June, so there was a lot of pent up energy inside thousands ready to party. For the last 2 years that I have been to this event I forget how intimidating it is to take my camera out and photograph it. I walked around shy and hidden for the first hour before I loosened up and started interacting with people.
The sun was hot and it looked as if every like-minded person from every nook and cranny of New York was piling into these streets to get wild. I love the blend of all ages and races. Cops and criminals, families and kids. Young girls dressed up tight in red and blue and tough guys with no shirts eyeing and flirting with each passing girl. Parents dancing with their babies on their shoulders while French Montana’s song “Ain’t Worried About Nothin” is glaring out of every corner you turn. I kept wondering what these little kids are thinking while seeing a bunch of drunk grown ups dry hump each other in public and at the same time smelling a blunt get lit up every 2 minutes. What other event will you see a bunch of bench-pressing thugs do pull ups on a parade float.
There are people kissing, dancing, laughing, flirting all while 70% of the crowd is standing around with crossed arms and hardened New York attitude across their faces like they are prepared to get into a fight at any moment. Those are usually the ones that I’m drawn to photograph, which, let me tell you, is not easy. People are scared just to walk around this event and that’s what makes it even more special. I love their pride and passion for their culture. It makes me proud just to experience that energy whether I am interacting with it or I am just a fly on the wall. Puerto Rican or not you can feel the love and pride of New York all around.