A Celebration of Greek Pride

By Mary Kekatos and Ang Li

Every year, hundreds of churches, schools and organizations gather on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue for the Greek Independence Day Parade–the largest Greek event in the United States. The celebration commemorates March 25, 1821 when the Greek people claimed their independence after 400 years of rule under the Turkish Ottoman Empire. More than 100,000 participants and spectators gather each year for the parade that begins on East 64th Street and ends on East 79th Street. The Grand Marshal of this year’s parade was Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the head of Greece’s New Democracy opposition party, and honored guests included Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer. A taste of this year’s celebration:

40 years of white berets and mini-skirts

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The members of the PTA of the Greek School of Plato in Brooklyn have dressed in the same uniform for the parade for almost 40 years. (Mary Kekatos)

Although the children of the Greek School of Plato in Brooklyn are known for being members of the band that opens the Greek Independence Day Parade, it’s perhaps the ladies of the PTA that have more of the notoriety. A rather traditional uniform that many women wear to attend Manhattan’s annual parade is that of a navy blue suit, white beret and blue scarf. However, what isn’t known is that the uniform is actually the tradition of the women of the Brooklyn school’s PTA – a tradition they’ve kept alive for almost 40 years now.

“We definitely started a tradition,” said Mary Roros, seen above, center, in a white beret. “Now at the parade, we’ve seen so many organizations copy our uniform. But I love it. For what other reason besides Greek Independence Day would I be wearing a white beret, heels and a mini-skirt?” – Mary Kekatos

The Man with the Flags

Urgiles sells flags to girls from St. Nicholas Church in Flushing. (Ang Li)

Urgiles sells flags to girls from St. Nicholas Church in Flushing. (Ang Li)

Jorge Urgiles holds a bunch of Greek flags in his hands, but he was not there to march in the parade. He isn’t even Greek. Urgiles is a vendor who sells flags and souvenirs for this special occasion: the annual Greek Independence Day Parade. He walks past the costumed crowd  waiting for their turn to get on the main street. Sometimes, he stops along the way when people ask for the price or to buy a flag. Urgiles, originally from Ecuador, has been living in Manhattan for the past 24 years. He works in construction, but whenever there is a cultural celebration like Sunday’s parade, he hits the streets and makes some extra cash by selling flags of different countries. On average, Urgiles said he makes around $100 a day. – Ang Li

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