The parade generally runs from 79th in North Bergen along Bergenline Ave. through West New York, and ended in Union City.
Vega has said that he does not support the parade because Cuba is still in the hands of dictator Fidel Castro, but some residents have said that the parade merely celebrates Cuban heritage.
Until the issue is resolved, the parade has been redirected to 22nd to 48th streets in Union City only. North Bergen awaits the decision as well, since West New York connects the towns.
Yet there is still a possibility that it could cross the West New York township border.
This past week, the committee of the Cuban Day Parade, which includes members of the local Hudson County Kiwanis, said they planned to take their case to court and attempt to overturn Vega's decision.
Although initially deciding not to oppose Vega on the decision, committee members claim they had received pleas from the people of West New York to bring the parade back.
"We don't want to deprive the people," said Emilio Del Valle, founder and CEO of the parade.
But even if the decision is overturned and the permit granted, Vega maintains that he will physically bar the parade from crossing into West New York. The parade committee will have the police remove and possibly arrest the mayor.
"I understand this is a nation of laws not men, and they have their rights," said Vega. "I also saw what the '60s did to this country [the United States] and I have my rights as a citizen. I will block the parade physically by the hundreds if not by the thousands."
The matter may also become a campaign issue, as Vega is running against Union City Mayor and Assemblyman Brian Stack for state Senate in the 33rd District Democratic primary on June 5.
Calling for a ban
Last Monday, parties from both sides of the issue held back-to-back press conferences in front of West New York Town Hall, stating their reasons for their decisions and the further courses of action that would be taken. Showing his support for the Kiwanis and the Cuban Day Parade, former Mayor of West New York and Rep. Albio Sires, came out in support of the parade and asked Vega to rethink his decision.
"For the last [seven] years [that I was mayor]," said Sires. "We have granted a permit for the parade to go through the community, and the commissioners have walked along with me. This is a celebration of the contributions that the Cuban community has made to this area."
Sires also added that for the past eight years, Vega never stated any opposition to the parade.
"This has never been an issue, and now [Vega] feels the need to tell me that Cuba is suffering," said Sires. "Cuba has been an island prison for 50 years. This is very hurtful to all of the Hispanic community and the Cubans of this area. I would hope that the mayor would rethink this decision."
Both Sires and Vega are Cuban-American immigrants, and have participated in the parade in past years. Also speaking out against Vega's decision was West New York Commissioner Gerald Lange, who said the mayor made this decision on his own without consulting his fellow governing body.
"I completely disagree with this decision," said Lange. "I grew up in this town, and never in my life have I been so embarrassed to be [affiliated] with an administration. This is out of touch with the people of West New York. He unilaterally decided this on his own."
Political reasons or personal beliefs?
Vega's stance on the parade is that it has become too popular and commercial, and only interested in making a profit. He also said that it ignores the true suffering in Cuba.
Vega held a press conference last week in the company of one of his new commissioners, Alberto Rodriguez, who is also a Cuban American and stands by Vega's decision.
"We understand how great it is to be a Cuban American, but we have never forgotten how people are still suffering in the island of Cuba," said Vega.
Last Wednesday, May 16, just one day after the Board of Commissioners was sworn into office, Vega was presented with the permit for the parade. "That day, I was unable to sign the permit to allow the Cuban Day Parade to come through the streets of West New York," said Vega. "Since that day, all we have talked about is Cuba, and that makes me very proud."
However, people have questioned if Vega is in fact doing this for political reasons, or only because he does not want to march in the parade with his opponent for the 33rd District state Senate seat, Brian Stack.
"He has politicized the parade," said Del Valle, who was angered by the sudden turn of events and originally stated that the committee will no longer request a parade permit from the township while Vega remains in office. However, they have ultimately decided to attempt a request of the permit through the courts.
"I am very surprised by the mayor's decision," said Sergio Gatria, director and head of public relations for the parade. "He has attended our functions, marched with us and has even been the first one in line to ask for a sash. Now he's taking about the plight of Cuba! There has been a plight in Cuba for years, and this is the year it should be the biggest."
Gatria said that this parade will be a larger celebration than in the past due to Castro's recent health problems. "The dictator is dying or he's dead," said Gatria. "We should be glad. The man is finally paying in some way for everything he's done."
Denies marching until photos surface
Vega said the reason he acted now was because as mayor he has the power to do something about it, where in the years prior he couldn't.
Vega also claimed that many close friends and family begged him not to take this stance, but he came to it on his own.
"They begged me not to do this because it would be the end of my political career, but I felt I made the right decision," said Vega. "The one thing I could not do was sign that permit."
Vega also claimed he has not marched in the parade in the last four years.
However, the Reporter took pictures of Vega marching in the 2005 and 2006 parades alongside the rest of North Hudson's politicos.
When questioned about that, Vega changed his mind and said that as a matter of fact, he did participate, but he was ashamed to say so.
At a recent press conference held by Del Valle last Tuesday, one vocal resident of West New York was miffed at Vega's stance.
"If he stops the Cuban Day Parade, what's to stop him from stopping the Veteran's Day Parade?" said Ed Roggerman. "This is the wrong position, and that is coming from a German American."
Where does money go?
Vega's other concern was that the parade claims it is a non-profit organization, but it has received donations of up to $20,000 for tables for gala events. Vega questioned whether it was a legally based institution.
However, Del Valle said it has been known that the organization has been for-profit for the last three years. He said if there is any concern as to what is done with the funds, much of it has gone to college scholarships for local students, The Arc of New Jersey in Hudson County, and to help sponsor state athletes in the Special Olympics.
Jessica Rosero can be reached at email@example.com