Announcements that Philadelphia’s larger-than-life Cinco de Mayo festival, El Carnaval de Puebla en Filadelphia, would be canceled this year made its way to the top of the news cycle this week when organizers expressed concerns that immigration enforcement actions would be taken at the festival.
El Carnaval organizers, who cited concerns that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers would be present at the festival, said they were unsure if the event’s patrons and participants would be at risk.
“People are scared,” Edgar Ramirez, an organizing committee leader, told the Inquirer Monday. “The atmosphere is not good.”
Beginning this month, many other cultural festivals traditionally pop up throughout the summer.
Most organizers say they’ll carry on with those events.
The annual Islamic Heritage Festival — which has taken place in Philadelphia for 22 years — will go on as usual during the weekend of July 21, said Abdul Rahim Muhammad, director of the Islamic Cultural and Preservation and Information Council. Plans call for a prayer service July 21 and a meeting at Independence Park for a parade July 22.
Muhammad said he’s hoping for an even larger turnout this year than in years past.
“Because people do feel like they need to make a statement about their citizenship,” he said. “I don’t think there is a greater statement than coming to an event like this, exercising your First Amendment right. What greater way can you proclaim your citizenship than that?”
The Islamic Heritage Festival is part of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation’s 2017 PECO Multicultural Festival Series beginning in June with the Irish American Festival — along with eight other events scheduled through September.
Among the other groups included: the Council of Indian Organizations in Greater Philadelphia will hold its annual Festival of India in the later part of this summer. President Sri Sagaram said no decisions have been made about cancelling the event so far.
Sagaram said the council will hold a board meeting April 9 to discuss any concerns around the event. The cancellation of El Carnaval has sparked some debate among members, he said.
Sagaram said he hopes that by Aug. 12, when the event is scheduled, “things will settle down.” Between now and then, he said, board members will need to discuss problems that could arise this year.
Vendors and entertainers for the event reserve spots to participate months ahead of time, as in the case with the Concilio Hispanic Fiesta. Marketing manager for Concilio, Melanie Nievas, said the organization will make final decisions about the two-day event “very soon,” with no hints of hesitation about going forward.
Organizers of the Fiesta — also part of the Waterfront’s series — have some of the same fears as that of El Carnaval, Nievas said. But they anticipate the festivities will go on.
“It’s not that it’s not a concern of ours, because we’re different, but we’re all one culture, we like to say,” she said. “So if there’s anything we can do to assist and help them, for sure. We’re very inclusive, so if they want to participate in our parade, until then we just stand as a support system.”