El Museo del Barrio Three Kings Day Parade

The 43rd El Museo Three Kings Day Parade is in El Barrio East Harlem on Monday, January 6, 2020 from 11am to 12:30pm. The parade is followed by a celebration with live music at El Museo del Barrio from 1 to 2pm. FREE

There are live camels, the iconic giant puppets, parrandas (Puerto Rican Christmas carols), music, dancing and of course, the Three Kings en vivo.

43rd El Museo Three Kings Day Parade

The theme of this year’s parade is Nuestros Barrios Unidos: Celebrating our Collective Strength.

It’s a wise theme because around the world, when governments fail, the people must band together to survive. Unfortunately in the Latin world (lately in the Anglo world too), governments always seem to fail us.

This year’s celebrations includes Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican honorees, and performers who are Puerto Rican, Belizean, Honduran and Brazilian.

We all have Three Kings Day traditions. Being American Latin, the traditions are a blend of European, Indigenous and African cultures.

Our Puerto Rican community complains that we created El Museo and now it’s more focused on everybody else. But Puerto Rico itself is a mix of many cultures. The island is strategically located on the shoulder of the Caribbean. Across history, many nations coveted it. Even as “pure” Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico, we are multicultural. The same is true of Spain and Italy.

How great that more communities are included because this is the true spirit of Three Kings Day.

Three Kings Day Parade Route

The Parade starts at 106th St and Park Avenue.

It ends at La Marqueta, El Barrio’s old central market under the train tracks at 115th St and Park Avenue. There are usually some things going on at La Marqueta too. It’s a good place to eat delicious things that you remember from growing up in a Caribbean household.

Three Kings Day Parade Time

The parade runs from 11am to 12:30pm.

Three Kings Day Parade Honorees

King Emeritus: Jesus ‘Papoleto’ Melendez, a poet and author who is one of the original Nuyoricans.

Kings (Reyes)

  • Julissa Arce, Mexican-American author and public speaker (My (Underground) American Dream, Someone Like Me)
  • Elba Cabrera
  • Ernesto Quiñonez, novelist and essayist (Bodega Dreams, Taína)

Madrinas + Padrinos (Godmothers & Godfathers)

  • Luba Cortes, Immigrant Defense Coordinator for Make the Road New York, one of the leading immigrant advocate groups
  • Pura Cruz, Senior Client Advocate for LSA Family Health Service
  • Leonardo Ivan Dominguez, Executive Director of Alianza Dominicana Cultural Center (He is usually in charge of culture at the Dominican Day Parade)
  • Rene Escamilla, Founder of La Escuela de Mariachi Angeles de NY
  • Scherezade García, Dominican Interdisciplinary Visual Artist (her paintings are not only beautiful, they make you think)
  • Kneeco Hanton, Youth Advocate
  • Christian Martir
  • Ruby Naboa, Youth Advocate
  • Lee Quiñones, visual artist (the legendary graffiti artist of 1970s New York subways)
  • Rhina Valentin

We thank all the honorees for their commitment, inspiration and service to our communities.

Three Kings Day Parade Marchers

Where there is a Puerto Rican party, there is music and dancing, and eating and drinking with family and friends. There is bomba and plena, salsa and reggaeton. The only difference from Puerto Rico is that you can’t drink in the street on the mainland (and it’s cold in January in New York City).

This year’s featured artists include BombaYo, Annette Aguilar & the Stringbeans, Wabafu Garifuna Dance Theater, Fogo Azul NYC and more.

Fogo Azul NYC is one of New York City’s two Brazilian women’s drum bands. Isn’t it great we have not one, but two? And they are really good.

Bomba is the Puerto Rican drum and dance tradition where the dancer challenges the drummer to keep up with her/him.

Garifuna are Afro-Carib originally from St. Vincent in the Lesser Antilles. They were so fierce that the French colonizers could never defeat them. The people were finally exiled by the British in 1796 to coastal islands in what is now Honduras and Belize.

We’ve always been told that we died out, but it’s not true. We intermarried, but the Garifuna are the last intact Carib community.

There is a large Garifuna community in Crotona, The Bronx.

Bomba and Garifuna traditions are not exactly the same, but they are similar. Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas are Taíno. Garifuna is Carib of the Lesser Antilles.

African drums are healing. If you can, stand or sit next to the drummers. You will feel them in your bones and carry the rhythms home with you in your soul.

It’s really cool that El Museo del Barrio brings everybody together. ¡WEPA!

El Museo Three Kings Day Celebration

After the parade, the fun continues with live music in El Teatro at El Museo from 1-2pm. FREE

Museum admission is free on this day. There is a performance of Los Pleneros de la 21, one of New York City’s leading bomba and plena organizations.

Plena is a Puerto Rican form of singing to the accompaniment of hand drums. In the past, the pleneros transmitted the news from town to town. That’s why the drums are small and portable. Pleneros play on the street so they improvise with you. They were the radio and the internet, the rappers of the day.

We are not dead and our traditions are not dead. They live on in Puerto Rico, The Bronx, Loisaida and El Barrio.

We keep our traditions alive. Our traditions keep us alive.

For more information, visit elmuseo.org

Three Kings Day

Nowadays people around the world celebrate Christmas, but Three Kings Day on January 6 is the traditional gift-giving day in the Latin world. It’s not only our Hispanic Heritage, it’s our Italian heritage too.

I’ll never forget the radiant glow of a little girl of 4-5 years old, holding the toy the Three Kings gave her when they visited El Barrio on Three Kings Day. It might have been the only thing she got for Christmas, but it was the greatest treasure on earth.

In Puerto Rico, Spain and other parts of the Latin world, the Three Kings are an important cultural symbol. If you never lived in the Latin world, you have no idea. The nativity and the Three Kings are really a really big deal.

Anglos may be more familiar with the Three Kings as the biblical three wise men or the biblical magi. The English word “magic” comes from magi because back in the day the best scientists and astronomers came from the east. Astronomy was necessary for astrology, hence they were “magicians.”

Come to think of it, the Three Kings were distinguished foreigners who came to pay their respects to the baby Jesus. By tradition they were kings of Arabia, Persia and India. They were probably Muslim (actually this was before Islam was founded), Zoroastrian (the old Persian religion that is the foundation of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and Hindu. Jesus was Jewish. The tradition comes to us from Christian Europe.

So on Three Kings Day we celebrate migrant visitors from afar. Nobody pays much attention to their origin or religion. They came with respect and in peace. Maybe celebrating each other is the real meaning of Three Kings Day.

Thank you El Museo del Barrio. Without saying a word, you are showing us the true spirit of the holidays.

In the spirit of the Three Kings, wherever you are from and whatever your traditions, Dios te bendiga (God Bless You!).

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