WEST NEW YORK – The 13th annual Hudson County Cuban Day Parade and its near 200 participants marched through North Bergen, West New York, and Union City along Bergenline Avenue on June 3 in celebration of the country’s heritage. Everything went smoothly, parade founder and organizer Emilio Del Valle said, until West New York Mayor Felix Roque broke the rules.
The parade began at 79th Street, which is where all prospective participants are supposed to gather, Del Valle said Tuesday. He quoted from the parade rules and regulations handbook which read, “No person, vehicles, floats, or contingents that arrive late will be permitted to join the event.”
While Roque and approximately 100 West New York residents gathered on time, they gathered on 67th Street and Bergenline Avenue and marched in front of the parade.
Roque told the Reporter on Tuesday that when he approached Del Valle the day of the parade with the intent to march through his town with gathered residents, at first he was informed that he would not be able to march at all if he didn’t join at the official start line. Then, Roque said, Del Valle told him he’d have to march at the back of the parade.
“The Cuban community has been humiliated by dictatorship many years, and we came to the land of the free that allows us to march and express our beliefs,” Roque said. “We won’t take that from another dictator. [Del Valle] needs to get his ideals back in line.”
Del Valle stated he felt that Roque’s insistence on joining the parade at 67th Street was disrespectful to the parade, the community, and to Cuban Americans.
“[Roque] thinks that he is above the law at all times,” Del Valle said. “He’s been charged with a crime and hasn’t been proven guilty yet, but he can’t just do whatever he feels like doing, and he cannot use this parade for political reasons.”
De Valle added that Roque’s act was worse than when then-mayor Sal Vega attempted to deny the Cuban Parade a permit in West New York and to prohibit residents from marching in it in 2007. “[Roque] complains he left Cuba because of Castro’s dictatorship, and now he’s starting to imitate it,” he said.
“I like Emilio and I think he’s a good guy, but I don’t agree with his actions,” Roque said. “I’m innocent until proven guilty and I’m very happy with the judicial system, because if I was in Cuba I would have been shot and dead already.” -- Gennarose Pope