Melissa Marquez has attended the 40-year-old Puerto Rican People’s Parade since she was a child. Like others in Chicago, it holds special significance to her because of her Puerto Rican roots.
“I am from Chicago and I am Puerto Rican," she said. "My family is from Yabucoa."
Wednesday marked nine months since Hurricane Maria left many parts of the island destroyed and without electricity. Though it did not disrupt Chicago’s Puerto Rican celebrations in Humboldt Park this month, several attendees expressed a noticeable difference this year.
With her hand on her chest, Marquez, 40, described how the parade changed from just last year.
“There seems to be the same amount of people, but there is a lull in the liveliness," she said. "There are still signs and posters of what happened.”
Different organizations had signs on their floats or flyers that read, “3 R’s for Puerto Rico: Rescue, Relief, Rebuild,” part of The Puerto Rican Agenda’s campaign to aid the island.
“We felt that Puerto Rico was absent from the discussion of how it could mobilize to receive help after Hurricane Irma," Co-Chair of The Puerto Rican Agenda in Chicago, Cristina Pacione-Zayas, said about the origin of the slogan."And even more so after Maria. We looked for a way to articulate how to invest in the island and beyond."
Pacione-Zayas said the island is still in a state of emergency, as only certain areas have recovered.
“I have seen amazing examples of generosity (in Chicago)," she said. "Many people want to contribute in a significant way,” but added that even after nine months, more help is still needed.
Marquez did not eliminate the possibility that the hot, 88 degree weather on Saturday could have also affected the mood of the Puerto Rican festivities.
However, Noel Perez, 71, said the heat was not a reason to miss out on tradition.
“I’ve been in the city for 44 years and I have never stopped coming to the parade,” he said.
Perez echoed that the parade was not the same as years past.
“It’s good, not better," Perez said. "It’s missing some flavor. There is not the same amount of joy."
Still, there was no lack of people (of all ages) dressed in clothing stylized after the Puerto Rican flag, music, and celebration of Puerto Rican culture throughout last week.
“We are celebrating life,” Marquez said.