Ysela Mantilla and her brother David arrived early on Sunday morning to watch the annual Peruvian Parade enter Paterson from Clifton. She and her brother were among thousands upon thousands of people who dotted the sidewalks of Main Street to watch the spectacle that featured traditional Peruvian music, dress, and dances.
“This is a tradition. All the Peruvians wait for this day,” said Mantilla, 48, who came to Paterson from Elmwood Park. She has been coming to see the parade pass through every year. She originally settled in Paterson after emigrating from Peru in the mid-1990s, but was forced to move to the former East Paterson to ensure her son had good schools to attend.
Mantilla sees the parade as a way to remind youngsters of their heritage. She began bringing her son to see the parade since he was three years old, she said. “I always bring him. So he can see it and follow the same tradition,” she said. Her son is now 15. He had basketball practice on Sunday and could not see the parade this year, she said.
She and her brother, 52, who still lives in Paterson, sat in the concrete benches in front of the PNC Bank on Main Street waiting for 50 other family members to arrive. Other people from far and wide began gathering on Main Street in anticipation of the parade.
Adrian Portilla, 34, of West Orange, setup a lawn chair on the sidewalk. He was dressed in a red and white shirt – colors of the Peruvian flag. He has been in the U.S. for four years and misses his homeland.
“You feel the love for your country,” said Portilla. “I came for the original Peruvian music, the dance, and the food. I come to Paterson to eat.” His favorite eatery is Los Immortales on Market Street.
Portilla intended to watch the parade in southern Paterson and head to downtown for the festival for lunch.
A few steps away from Portilla was 16-year-old Alejandra Mantilla, unrelated to the other Mantillas. Her mother, Mercedes Carlin, 58, brought her to see the parade.
“It gets me an image of how things are over there,” said the 16-year-old. Carlin wants to make sure her daughter never forgets Peru and the proud Peruvian culture.
“Sometimes we forget out culture,” said Carlin, who came from Newark for the parade. She has been attending the parade for decades, she said. Some also attend the parades to run into old friends and relatives.
Jonathan Almanza, 26, of Haledon, was on the other side of the street, when his uncle Tony Chavez, 73, walked over and picked him up. Neither had seen each other in a while, they said.
Chavez was amazed at the thousands of Peruvians who had lined the sidewalks of Main Street. There were very few Peruvians (he estimated 10) in Paterson when he arrived in 1967, he said. He has been religiously attending the parade since the Peruvian Parade organization was formed in 1986.
Chavez continues to live in Paterson. “I love this city,” he said. He said the Silk City is the center of Peruvian culture in New Jersey.
This year’s parade was almost cancelled. Mario Lopez, president of the Peruvian Parade organization, threatened to cancel the parade. His organization did not have sufficient funds to pay the city for parade fees. Prominent city developer Charles Florio donated $25,000 to the group which allowed Lopez to have the parade.