El Museo prepares for 41st Annual Three Kings Day Parade
Story by Gregg McQueen
Four decades later, the three kings (and queens) still reign.
The East Harlem streets will once again be taken over by real camels, giant hand-made puppets and live music, when El Museo del Barrio celebrates its annual Three Kings Day Parade on Fri., Jan. 5 at 11 a.m.
Long rooted as a neighborhood institution, the parade is now in its 41st year. It celebrates Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany, one of the most important holidays on the cultural and religious calendar of many from the Latin Caribbean.
The parade route begins at 106th Street and Lexington Avenue and ends on 115th Street and Park Avenue.
In the aftermath of Hurricane María, the observance of Puerto Rican heritage will take on a more poignant meaning, said Ana Chireno, Director of Government and Community Affairs for El Museo.
“We had a galvanizing event this year that brought the community together,” said Chireno of the hurricane. “It definitely hangs over this year’s parade.”
El Museo has been active in attempting to help those affected by María. In October, the museum held an artwork auction, raising $18,000 to aid hurricane victims.
In addition to the typical parade glitz, this year’s march carries added cultural significance, with the current U.S. political climate causing immigrant communities to feel oppressed.
“Parades aren’t normally thought of as political events, but with people feeling that that their heritage is under attack, celebrating culture is politically powerful,” remarked Chinero.
She said the theme for this year’s parade is “Freedom Fighters,” intended to celebrate individuals dedicated to promoting liberty and equality.
The parade boasts three women as its Honorary Kings, a rarity for the Three Kings Parade.
Bárbara Hernández, actress and LGBTQ activist, Paola Mendoza, filmmaker and artistic director of the Women’s March on Washington and Ana-Ofelia Rodríguez, Director of Community Development for Broadway Housing Communities, will all take center stage as 2018 Honorary Kings.
Hernández becomes the first Puerto Rican Transgendered artist to be honored in the parade, Chireno said.
“I think it’s a strong statement that all three Kings are women,” she stated.
Leading the parade will be its longtime King Emeritus, Jesús ‘Papoleto’ Meléndez, a poet, performance artist and East Harlem native.
This year’s Madrinas are Sandra García-Betancourt, Poet, Writer, Arts Activist and Administrator; Ana Maria López, Assistant Professor of the Humanities Department/Latin American and Caribbean Unit at Hostos Community College; Nancy Pereira, Family Leadership Coordinator, School District 4; Vanessa Pérez-Rosario, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Puerto Rican and Latino Studies at Brooklyn College; and Jaritza Taveras-Caba, Director of Community Affairs, Manhattan North Management.
The 2018 Padrinos are Jorge Merced, Artistic Director of Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT); M. Tony Peralta, Designer and Artist, Hatuey Ramos-Fermín, Director of Programs and Community Engagement, The Laundromat Project; Adrián ‘Viajero’ Román, Artist; and Charlie Vásquez, Deputy Director at Bronx Council on the Arts.
The morning will kick off with a breakfast at El Museo featuring the Honorary Kings (who are Queens this year), Madrinas and Padrinos, as well as various elected officials.
Following the parade, community residents are invited back the museum for an improv theater performance by Teatro 220 and a parranda with Bombazo Dance Company.
Other performers slated to appear in the parade include Abya Yala Arte y Cultura, Annette A. Aguilar and StringBeans, Bomba Yo!, Fogo Azul Bateria Femenina, Gays Against Guns (G.A.G), KRT3S Dance Company, Los Pleneros de la 21, The Marching Cobras, and the PS/MS 57 marching band.
Counting both marchers and spectators, the parade typically draws more than 5,000 participants.
Chireno said she believes the parade’s appeal comes from its inclusive nature, and the tight-knit community of East Harlem.
“It’s a time-honored tradition,” she said. “It brings together different generations. It’s something that community members share with their children, and their grandchildren, and it’s become a neighborhood ritual.”
El Museo del Barrio is located at 1230 Fifth Avenue (at East 104th Street) in Manhattan. The Museum’s Galleries are currently undergoing renovations and will reopen to the public in the summer of 2018. For more information on these and other renovations, visit http://bit.ly/2CxANbx.
For more information on El Museo del Barrio, please visit www.elmuseo.org.
El Museo’s Three Kings Day Parade CANCELLED
Please note: El Museo del Barrio’s 41st Annual Three Kings Day Parade has been CANCELLED due to inclement weather. Instead, El Museo del Barrio will be hosting a special SUPER SABADO on Saturday, January 20th. The free afternoon will feature live musical performances, art-making workshops, storytelling, and more. For more information, please visit elmuseo.org.