Puerto Rican Day Parade honors arts, culture trailblazers

NEW YORK (AP) — With Puerto Rican pride on full display along New York City's Fifth Avenue, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday he's returning to the island to help rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria.

Speaking at the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Cuomo said he's also appointing a commission to oversee the construction of a memorial, located in Manhattan's Battery Park City, to victims of the 2017 storm.

Cuomo, a Democrat, said more than 300 students from state-run colleges will travel to Puerto Rico over the summer to help the recovery. Public health experts have estimated that nearly 3,000 people died in 2017 because of the effects of Hurricane Maria.

"In New York, we have not forgotten," Cuomo said. "We said on day one that we will stand with Puerto Rico every step of the way."

Cuomo has already traveled to Puerto Rico five times since Hurricane Maria hit.

Last year, parade organizers mounted a tribute to those affected by the September 2017 natural disaster, including a group of marchers who had been displaced from their homes.

This year, for its 62nd iteration, the parade is looking to promote the economic development needed for the island to fully get back on its feet. As part of that, it's highlighting Discover Puerto Rico, an organization encouraging business and leisure travel to Puerto Rico.

Grand marshal Ricky Martin, the singer known for his stint in Menudo and his hit "Livin' La Vida Loca," was celebrated alongside his foundation, which is dedicated to fighting human trafficking.

As New York City marks Pride Month, the parade is paying posthumous tribute to Sylvia Rivera, an LGBTQ rights activist who took part in the Stonewall rebellion 50 years ago this month.

Others being honored in the parade themed "One People, Many Voices" include singers La India and José Feliciano, golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez and Hall of Fame-bound baseball slugger Edgar Martinez.

Doris Martinez, 61, of Manhattan, said she's been going to the parade since she was 15.

"My mommy made it a point to show me my heritage and culture at an early age, and for me, it's a pride and joy especially to show the world who we are," she said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio skipped the parade, opting to campaign in Iowa as he seeks the Democratic party's nomination in the 2020 presidential race.