1. René Perez, known as Residente from Calle 13, has already been named the “king” of the Puerto Rican Day parade Sunday, but now his band is also being honored by New York City officials, BuzzFeed has learned.
2. Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold the position, decided to do something different their first time stewarding the parade.
“I approached him and told him I would like to jointly host [the reception at Gracie Mansion] since I’m the first Puerto Rican in this position,” Mark-Viverito said, and told the mayor she wanted to publicly recognize Perez, who is the king of the parade, but also honor the group as a whole.
3. Mark-Viverito believes groups like Calle 13 play an outsized role in pushing for change and highlighted the way they spotlight injustice and Puerto Rican issues as noteworthy.
“I believe when you have a level of notoriety or a prominent position it’s important when you’re not afraid to express an opinion, especially the way they challenge through their lyrics,” she said. “They speak out against injustice and issues that others may shy away from. I may not agree with them on everything but the fact that they even dare to challenge people is good.”
4. Perez told BuzzFeed he is honored by the recognition.
“I am proud to have been chosen to preside over the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York,” he said in Spanish. “This is a celebration that permits us to come together to honor our culture and celebrate our nationality and identity.”
5. But he also took the opportunity to champion a cause that is close to his heart.
“But also, this time, the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, will be able to unite their voices to speak out on the incarceration of Oscar López Rivera, who on May 29 completed 33 years in jail for the crime of his views. This impacts the whole world,” he said, of a supporter of Puerto Rican independence who has served 33 years of a 70-year prison term and was charged with seditious conspiracy against the U.S.
6. Mark-Viverito said she feels the parade, which was wracked with scandal over previous officials who misused funds, is going back to its roots this year.
“I really feel this parade is going back to its roots, reflecting a positive light, and the contributions Puerto Ricans have made,” she said. “The focus is more on the community instead of corporate sponsors. I think the parade had become too corporate and we were losing ourselves and the community part of it.”
And she said Perez, who isn’t shy about meeting with politicians in Puerto Rico to talk about things that can be done to help the community, will find a willing partner in her.
“I’d like to have that meeting with him and see if we can come together in some way and use it for another goal. I look forward to meeting with him one and one.”