Puerto Rican Expo brings parade, festival to Tremont, Clark-Fulton this weekend

The two-day festival follows a 54-year tradition of Puerto Rican celebrations in Cleveland.
There has been a Puerto Rican parade in Cleveland since 1969. (Courtesy Puerto Rican Expo)

This weekend marks the start of one of the most anticipated celebrations in Cleveland’s Latino community – the Puerto Rican Parade and Cultural Festival, now called the Puerto Rican Expo. The free celebration, which features international food, music, dancing, art, vendors, and more, will be held on Saturday, Aug. 5 and Sunday, Aug. 6 in Quad Park at MetroHealth Hospital main campus at 2500 MetroHealth Drive. On Sunday, the 53rd annual Puerto Rican parade will kick off at 11 a.m. from Scranton Road and Castle Ave. and proceed southbound on Scranton towards the park.

The Puerto Rican Expo has been celebrated since 1969, and over the years, it has changed locations several times. In 2022, it was held at Roberto Clemente Park on W. 38th St. just north of Clark Ave. This year’s festival site, Quad Park, is located at the intersection of Scranton Road and Valentine Ave. where the now-demolished MetroHealth towers once stood.  

The Puerto Rican parade is a national festival and parade celebrated in heavily Puerto Rican cities and states like Chicago, New York, Florida, and Connecticut, just to name a few. This year, organizers say they expect over 10,000 people to attend, many of whom will travel from outside the city to attend the celebration. Over the last five years, the Hispanic Police Officer Association (HPOA) has taken the lead on planning the parade with the help of volunteers in the community. 

In an interview with The Land, Puerto Rican Expo volunteer Rosa Cruz mentioned how organizers have been planning for this weekend since January. “This year, it will be packed with music from many Latin Countries, including salsa, merengue, and bachata,” she said enthusiastically.

(Courtesy Puerto Rican Expo)

Cruz also mentioned that Puerto Ricans blazed a trail that has led to other Latino immigrant groups coming to Cleveland, and now the Puerto Rican Parade has been the blueprint for other Latino communities to start their own parade and celebration of their culture. “It is important for us to preserve our culture and our community’s heritage for the next generation. There are many celebrations like the Peruvian festival, La Placita, and now the Dominican festival,” she said.

She also mentioned that all the people involved in the planning, fundraising, and execution of this two-day celebration are volunteers. 

We also asked Manny Velez, President of HPOA, why the organization found it important to take over the planning process of the parade and to continue the tradition. “HPOA has always sought out ways to connect with the community they serve,” he told us by text, saying that HPOA jumped at the chance to organize “Cleveland’s largest and oldest outdoor Hispanic event.” The planning process, he said, gives HPOA the chance to partner with community members and organizations. “Although the event has grown substantially, the work continues to be grassroots and organic,” he said, expressing pride in the many volunteers that work on the Expo.

Velez said how meaningful the parade is to the Puerto Rican community. “To carry this torch means sharing the history of the many contributions Puerto Ricans have made and educating the diaspora of the many traditions that are dear to the heart of Puerto Ricans on the island,” he said. “Outcomes include newer generations having a sense of pride in their ancestors and strengthening their Puerto Rican identity.” 

Puerto Rican history display at the Expo. (Courtesy Puerto Rican Expo)

Many Puerto Ricans came to Northeast Ohio between 1945 and 1965 to work in the factories in Lorain. After their contracts ended, many moved to Cleveland and settled on the east side. However, in the late 1950s they began to resettle the west side of Cleveland near the Flats where there were diverse job opportunities in the steel mills and factories. Today, the densest Puerto Rican community in Cleveland is in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood off Clark Ave.

This Friday, Aug. 4, at 11 a.m. the Puerto Rican national anthem will be played at City Hall as the Puerto Rican flag is raised there for the first time, a historical moment for all to witness, Cruz said.

During Sunday’s parade, several streets in Tremont and Clark-Fulton will be closed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including Scranton, Castle, Seymour, Mentor, and Wade.

Learn more about the free Puerto Rican Expo, including the schedule of musicians and entertainment, on the website.

Tanisha Velez was a participant in The Land’s community journalism program.

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