The National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) will be celebrating its 60th annual demonstration of cultural pride, but this year won't be quite like the rest.
Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar López Rivera is being honored as NPRDP's first "National Freedom Hero" — and this decision is receiving major backlash.
López Rivera has been one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the United States and after spending over 35 years in prison, he was released on May 17 of this year.
As a member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation) movement, known as FALN, López Rivera was convicted of "seditious conspiracy."
Due to the event's decision to honor him, corporate relationships with the organization have grown tense and huge businesses are withdrawing their sponsorships from the parade.
Goya Foods was one of the first sponsors to pull out of the annual event and the only explanation they gave as to why they were doing this was, "We made a business decision not to sponsor the parade this year.”
Other corporate and local sponsors that will not participate include: Coca-Cola, JetBlue, AT&T, the New York Yankees, the Fire Department of New York City, and the New York Daily News.
"This year, an ill-advised decision by parade organizers forces us to withdraw," the New York Daily News wrote. "By lionizing López Rivera as the parade’s preeminent figure, organizers have inescapably compelled sponsors and participants to join in honoring a man convicted of abetting violent terror to achieve his aims."
Although companies will be boycotting the parade itself, JetBlue, Coca-Cola, and the Yankees will continue their financial support of the parade's scholarship program.
The NPRDP scholarship awards one hundred $2,000 scholarships to high school seniors and college students who are of Puerto Rican descent as a means to give back to the community.
"The New York Yankees are not participating in this year's Puerto Rican Day parade. However, for many years, the Yankees have supported a scholarship program that recognizes students selected by the parade organizers. To best protect the interests of those students, and avoid any undue harm to them, the Yankees will continue to provide financial support for the scholarships, and will give to the students directly," the Yankees organization statement read.
And NYC's mayor Bill de Blasio also announced that he will be marching in the event on June 11.
“I believe this parade is a very, very important part of the life of our city,“ de Blasio said during a news conference in the Bronx, according to the New York Times. "The parade committee made a choice this year on someone to honor,” Mr. de Blasio said. “That does not change the basic nature of the parade. Whether you agree with that choice or not, it’s still the Puerto Rican parade and my point is, I will be there to honor the Puerto Rican people. I intend on marching. It’s as simple as that."
Although many people are divided on the situation, the show will go on.
One thing's for sure: June 11 will be interesting.