Salsa Dancing, Gifts, Heritage Mark Three Kings Festivities
January 7, 2007
By REGINE LABOSSIERE, Courant Staff Writer
Park Street erupted with the sounds of salsa and merengue Saturday to celebrate Three Kings Day, which brought out throngs of Hartford's Latino population.
Jose and Gisela Alicea celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary by salsa dancing on the sidewalk while they waited for the parade to begin.
Jose Alicea, 44, said that in Puerto Rico, where he and his wife were born, and in the rest of Latin America, everyone celebrates Three Kings Day, or Epiphany.
"It's very important ... because of the presents to Jesus," he said. "It's important for the kids."
In Spanish tradition, Jan. 6 is revered as the day that the three kings, Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, representing Europe, Arabia and Africa, arrived on camels, bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh to baby Jesus.
Christians in Spain and Latin American countries celebrate in different ways. Gisela Alicea, 45, said Puerto Rican children leave a box full of grass under their beds before they go to sleep Jan. 5. The kids believe that overnight the kings' camels eat the grass and the kings put toys in the box.
"It's good that we pass the history and the faith to the kids," she said.
About 10:15 a.m., Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, El Gitano Supermarket owner Alfonso Lopez and Fernando Betancourt of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, dressed as the three wise men, came down from their dressing room in the Spanish American Merchants Association building to get their camels. Dozens of children ran after them, eager to take pictures with the Magi and the animals.
The parade, led by a police escort, began soon after, with the Magi's slaves carrying baby Jesus' presents and Roberts atop one camel, while the two other wise men walked alongside their animals. The lively crowd - full of excited children - waved, took pictures and shouted to friends and family as the parade traveled down Park Street to Pope Park where the partying continued.
The warm and partly sunny weather drew hundreds from their homes while many others waved from upstairs apartments.
Rosemarie Perez, 25, who lives on Park Street, said the festivities were meaningful to her heritage.
"It's a pleasure being a Latina," she said, holding her baby son.
Perez said part of the fun is "everyone coming together as one and just enjoying being with the kids and seeing their faces when they see the camels."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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