Nearly every notable boricua in music -- from Daddy Yankee to Jennifer Lopez -- has performed in the parade at one point or another, and for newcomers like Raquel Sofia, singing your heart out atop one of those floats represents a chance to win over compatriots early on in your career.
Here’s what you can expect to see this year. And even if you choose to stay at home, you can still follow the action on social media or watch the parade on HITN – TV (click here for listings).
1. In addition to this year’s theme of “Un Pueblo, Muchas Voces” [One People, Many Voices], the parade, one of the largest in the country with an estimated three million spectators, will highlight the African influence in Puerto Rico’s heritage. Among the Afro-boricua figures being recognized for their important cultural contributions this year are artists/activists Arturo Schomburg and Sylvia del Villard.
2. The legendary Rita Moreno, one of a handful of people to walk this earth with the title of EGOT (for having won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award throughout her career), will take on a new role at this year’s Puerto Rican Day Parade: Grand Marshall. Moreno’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Anita in West Side Story won the hearts of not just Puerto Ricans but everyone, has a new Spanish-language album coming out via Sony later this year produced by Emilio Estefan. Moreno tells Billboard of the album, “It speaks to the fact that I can still sing at 83. We have fun stuff, we have serious stuff, we have ballads, and we have a jazzy version of ‘Brazil’ which I’ve been singing in my concerts for years. I really hope that it will have success.”
3. Salsa veteran Victor Manuelle, who recently released a new album, Que Suenen los Tambores, and played in Houston as part of Billboard’s En Vivo concert series, will be among the ambassadors of the parade. Expect to hear the salsero’s new single “Agua Bendita,” which we can’t get enough of.
4. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of the Tony-winning Broadway musical In The Heights is among this year’s honorees. Miranda will receive the Nuestro Orgullo [Our Pride] Award during this year’s festivities. "This award is very humbling - (especially) to be celebrated alongside such an icon like Rita Moreno,” Miranda told the New York Daily News. “I've attended as a spectator from the time I was very young. I remember my dad, Luis Miranda, marching every year with the late Mayor Ed Koch. We were either on Fifth Ave. or watching on TV." Miranda’s wildly acclaimed new musical, Hamilton, is headed to Broadway in July.
5. Grammy-winning producer/arranger Angel “Cucco” Peña composed the opening song for this year’s celebration. “Obertura Patria” was recorded in San Juan with Peña’s orchestra Banda de Conciertos de Puerto Rico. Listen here:
6. Renowned stage and television actress Ivonne Coll, who plays Gina Rodriguez’s grandmother on the hit CW show Jane The Virgin, will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. We’d like to bestow our own award: best TV abuela ever! Watch her profess her love for Puerto Rico in this cute video below.
7. Folk-pop singer Raquel Sofia, who just released her debut album Te Quiero Los Domingos, was chosen as an artist to watch in music by the parade and will be performing some of her new material. “I’m also going to be singing ‘La Borinqueña,’ which is the Puerto Rican national anthem,” she excitedly told Billboard earlier this week. “I can’t believe it!”