Camden’s San Juan Bautista Parade Honors the Puerto Rican Community


The Puerto Rican flag flies at the San Juan Bautista Festival in Camden on Sunday, June 30, 2024. Photo by Frank Soto.

BY FRANK SANTOS | For AC Joseph Media

CAMDEN — Camden residents, artists and city representatives gathered in a colorful display of unity for the 2024 San Juan Bautista Parade on Sunday, June 30, which is the city’s largest celebration to honor Puerto Rican heritage, culture and tradition.

What began as a modest initiative in 1957 to present a positive image of the Puerto Rican community by Father Leonardo Carrieri Our Lady of Mount Carmel/Fatima Church, the San Juan Bautista Parade has grown into a vibrant congregation of community leaders.

Hispanic Leadership and Community

Working with small businesses and local organizations to give witness to music, food and talent from the Camden Puerto Rican community, Parada San Juan Bautista, Inc., also known as St. John the Baptist Parade, Inc., worked with city officials to organize this celebration.

The significance of the parade is underscored by the demographics of Camden, where 53.3 percent of the population is of Hispanic or Latino descent according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The sounds of Salsa and Reggaeton were heard through speakers that spanned from North Camden to Wiggins Waterfront Park where the parade floats concluded their route.

Floats adorned with colorful decorations carried performers who danced and played music while local talents, including the Camden High School marching band, used this opportunity to perform music renditions that honors cultural interconnectivity. The Puerto Rican community in Camden hopes to continue to cultivate with groups near and far.

One of the notable allies in this festivity is Barbara Capaldi, owner of Atrium Dance Studio who has also been honored as 2024 Business Person of the Year by Parada San Juan Bautista, Inc., is an active proponent to the Hispanic community in Camden.

“Twenty-three years ago, we opened not just to the dance community, but to the Latino community,” Capaldi said.

Her studio in Pennsauken initially focused on performing and instructing Salsa music, but it has since evolved into a hub for Latin nights, creating a vibrant space for cultural exchange and community building.

Capaldi’s involvement with the San Juan Bautista organization deepened over the years, which includes her role as the pageant choreographer.

“I’m very, deeply honored that they are happy that I am there for the Puerto Rican community. We are a family,” said Capaldi, who was reflective on her commitment and the profound connections she has fostered.

The parade also drew the participation of city officials, including Camden Mayor Victor Carstarphen, who joined the route and was warmly embraced by local business owners and residents.

This gesture highlighted the city’s dedication to inclusivity and community engagement. Beyond the festivities, Parada San Juan Bautista Inc. aims to promote equal opportunities by partnering with organizations such as the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey.

The collaborations are essential in providing accessible resources for healthcare and job opportunities addressing critical needs within the community.

As the parade has evolved into a series of events that span from May to June, it has become a beacon of cultural pride and community solidarity. This extended celebration underscores the unity of Camden, with various groups resonating with the spirit of the Puerto Rican community.

The 2024 San Juan Bautista Parade not only honors the rich traditions and vibrant culture of Puerto Rico but also serves as a testament to the strength and cohesion of Camden’s diverse population. The event symbolizes hope, togetherness, and the enduring legacy of a community that cherishes its heritage while looking forward to a bright future.

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