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The Puerto Rican day parade is an act of patriotism, honor and symbol for Puerto Rican pride, but it wasn’t always an act of diplomacy and neither was it always legal.

In the book entitled War Against Puerto Ricans Revolution and Terror in Americas Colony, author Nelson Denis tells the inception of America’s largest public event, The Puerto Rican Day Parade and explains how the Puerto Rican flag was once an entry way to jail.

In order to suppress Pedro Albizu Campos and the Nationalist movement in Puerto Rico, a law was passed in Puerto Rico. It was called Public Law 53, also known as the Gag Law and La Ley de la Mordaza. This law made it a felony to utter a word, sing a song, whistle a tune, or say anything against the US government, or in favor of Puerto Rican independence. This included singing La Borinqueña, or owning a Puerto Rican flag.”

Anyone who dared to disobey the law was sentenced to ten years in jail. Public Law 53 was passed in 1948. Even though it violated the US constitution, it took nine years to repeal it in 1957. The next year, the first Puerto Rican Day Parade was held in New York City, according to Denis. holding back the Puerto rican pride was actually the reason for its cultural symbolism and honor which all Puerto Ricans unknowingly hold for the poled ideal. It was a symbol of freedom and the closest thing to rebellion without finding oneself in jail.

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To most Americans today this unspoken piece of history goes against the parades 90,000 marchers, 2 million spectators and a horde of corporate sponsors. Today however, the very success of the parade as Nelson shows is because of a time when it was illegal to be proud.

Denis notes, “The flags and celebration were everywhere. The passion was astonishing. New York had never seen anything like it.”

And as proven in this year’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade…this still stands true today.

– Hurtjohn