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Singer Ricky Martin Leads Puerto Rican Day Parade Through NYC

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The 62nd annual Puerto Rican Day Parade stepped off Sunday in Manhattan.

Thousands lined 5th Avenue for the largest celebration of Puerto Rican culture in the country.

Singer Ricky Martin served as this year's grand marshal and was celebrated for his foundation, which fights human trafficking.

As the city marks Pride month, the parade paid tribute to late Sylvia Rivera, an LGBTQ activist who took part in the Stonewall rebellion 50 years ago this month. The event themed "One People, Many Voices" also honored singers La India and Jose Feliciano, golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez and Hall of Fame-bound baseball player Edgar Martinez.

Dignitaries and elected officials like congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined the march to celebrate Puerto Rican heritage.

Notably absent from the festivities was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who campaigned in Iowa instead.

"New York City would not be the greatest city in the world without the contributions of our Puerto Rican community. ¡Viva Puerto Rico! #PRHeritageNYC," the mayor tweeted Sunday morning.

"I don't think it's about who's not here. I think it's about who is here," Cuomo said.

On Friday, de Blasio defended his decision to skip the parade.

"I've gone to the parade as mayor, as public advocate, as councilmember. I've gone many, many years, but when you're running for president of the United States, this is always a challenge to try and balance the schedules," he said.."

Some paradegoers said they found de Blasio's absence "disrespectful."

"He wasn't here. He definitely ain't gonna get my vote for president neither," spectator Felicia Montanez said.

Former city council speaker Melissa Mark Viverito says, however, she doesn't question de Blasio's commitment to Puerto Rico.

"After the hurricane, I stood there side by side when the city's resources were put on the island to help Puerto Rico. He has been at every parade. He's hosted events at Gracie Mansion. Whenever we have needed his support, he has said, 'presente,'" she said. "So yes, he is not here today, but his actions have spoken strongly."

"Maybe that benefits him because he would like to become president. Us, the Puerto Ricans, I don't have no disagreement with that," spectator Hector Martinez said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo announced new efforts to help the island recover from Hurricane Maria.

"While the federal government forgot an important fact, which is that Puerto Ricans are American citizens, New York State said on day one that we will stand with Puerto Rico every step of the way," he said. "We remember Maria and we stand in solidarity, all of us, all New Yorkers, with the people of Puerto Rico."

The governor said another 300 SUNY and CUNY students will head to Puerto Rico this summer to help rebuild, and he plans to create a memorial that will commemorate the hurricane and its victims.

For more information on those initiatives, click here.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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