It has always been a day of pride in the Puerto Rican community. The Puerto Rican Day Parade draws superstars like Jennifer López and Mark Anthony. But this year the selection of telenovela star Osvaldo Ríos as the parade’s Godfather is drawing protest, to say the least. “It’s not a positive role model for my people, for my community and for our children,” council member Melissa Mark-Viverito said. It’s because Ríos has a history of domestic violence. On screen, he’s a heart-throb known for his passionate soap scenes. In real life, Ríos was convicted after abusing his girlfriend, serving 3 months in prison back in 2004. So now, some community leaders are threatening to boycott this year’s parade. “I personally will not march in the parade and I will ask other elected officials to consider doing the same thing,” Mark-Viverito said.
Still, not everyone agrees that Ríos is such a poor choice. In East Harlem, ABC News asked a lot of people in the community and got a mixed response. “I think people can change if they want to change, and I think they should at least be given the opportunity to do so,” Cathy Akhtar said.
“As long as he’s supporting our people, we’re behind him, too,” Linda Descartes said.
So far, parade officials have agreed, arguing that Ríos deserves a second chance.
Others in the community fear that honoring him at the parade sweeps a serious problem under the rug and even suggests that the abuse of women is ok. “And women really can’t say anything about it, and we can still kick your butt and it’s ok,” Claribel Reyes said.
And in a community in which domestic abuse is on the rise, some leaders plan to fight hard for a change in the parade’s roster in the coming days.