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50th annual Puerto Rican Festival opens with sunshine, music, and food

Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI
Festival-goers enjoy the food at the 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival at Frontier Field in Rochester.

The 50th annual Puerto Rican festival opened Friday afternoon at Frontier Field with food, music, and good vibes. It was sunny, and the mix of music, food, and the energy couldn’t be more welcome after weeks of bad news.

Early Friday afternoon, the crowd was small but vibrant. Jose Andres Nieves, 79, is here with a group from Centro de Oro, a Latinx senior center run by Ibero. Jose says he came for the live music.

"I am a fanatic of Trio Los Condes from Puerto Rico, but I like salsa and merengue, anything," he says in Spanish.

Jose moved here from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, one of thousands who relocated to Rochester in the aftermath.

"In our town, there was no electricity, no water, and many houses were without roofs. I was alone, and my daughters who live here told me to come over," he says.

About 3,000 people died from Hurricane Maria, which caused devastating destruction across the island. Most recently, after massive protests and political upheaval, there is new leadership. But still a debt of about $74 billion.

Jennifer Cruz-Figeroa grew up in Puerto Rico and moved here three years ago. She says in all the turmoil and tragedy, Puerto Ricans are stronger.

"Everybody found out from this tragedy that we are pretty resilient people," she says.

As for the festival, Jennifer says she was looking forward to the food.

Credit Noelle E. C. Evans / WXXI
Festival-goers check out merchandise at the 50th annual Puerto Rican Festival.

"Well, I went vegan for a while," she says with a laugh, "but I came for the rellenas de papa. That’s like mashed potatoes with ground beef filling inside, so yeah, mostly that."

The festival is happening throughout the weekend with live music from Puerto Rican artists and a parade Saturday. Events continue right through Sunday.

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