July 24, 2023 By By Gabriele Holtermann
It was all about Colombian pride and culture at the annual Colombian Independence Day Parade in Jackson Heights on Sunday, July 23.
Colombian Americans came out in droves and lined up along Northern Boulevard between 69th and 85th streets, waving Colombian flags and cheering on dancers donning traditional Colombian costumes, floats, marchers and elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, state Sen. Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz.
Cruz, who was born in Colombia and came to the United States when she was 9 years old, was visibly excited to celebrate Colombia’s rich culture with her peers.
“We’re back. We’re finally back after almost four years of a hiatus of this amazing parade,” Cruz said. “For me, having been born in Colombia, getting to celebrate with our community, our culture, is just beautiful. I am elated. I am exhausted from work, but I am elated [with] happiness being here.”
The parade celebrates Colombia’s declaration of independence from Spain more than 200 years ago and was first held in 2000.
Jackson Heights, home to the largest Colombian population in New York City, is often referred to as “La Pequeña Colombia” or “Little Colombia.”
Jackson Heights resident Andrea Sanchez enjoyed the parade with her mother Diana and boyfriend, Aldo Gallegos.
Sanchez said they try and attend the parade every year because it celebrates the Colombian community in the area.
She mostly enjoyed the music and the liveliness of the event.
“It reminds you of being back home,” Sanchez said.
Gallegos was there because of his girlfriend and her mom.
“I’m not Colombian, I’m Ecuadorian,” Gallegos clarified. “I actually do want to see what this is all about. It’s really nice to experience.”
Mario Silva, owner of Fabrika, which has been serving modern Latin fusion food “with a twist” in the heart of Jackson Heights for a little over a year, said celebrating Colombia’s independence “meant the world” to him.
“It feels like being part of Colombia, but in New York,” Silva said.
Cole and Patrick were visiting from Long Island because they had family members dancing in the parade. It was their first time attending the parade.
“We don’t know what to expect,” Cole admitted. “So we’re just kind of like open to seeing what it’s about.”
Liliana and Cesil Quintero trekked to Jackson Heights from Far Rockaway to enjoy the beautiful day.
Cecil Quintero, who immigrated to the United States 50 years ago, looked forward to celebrating “with his people.”
“It’s nice with the people here. This is my country, Colombia,” Quintero said.