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Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani hosted a reception this evening to celebrate the outstanding contributions of people of Puerto Rican heritage to the City of New York, as part of the events leading up to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. At the ceremony the Mayor also gave the Key to the City to the children of the late Tito Puente - Audrey, Ronald and Tito, Jr.
Joining the Mayor were Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington; Ninfa Segarra, a member of the New York City Board of Education; CUNY Trustee Herman Badillo; Ramon Velez, President of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade; Maria Roman, Vice President of the Puerto Rican Day Parade and Yadira Salcedo, Queen of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade and Tito Puente's three children - Audrey, Ronald and Tito, Jr. Other dignitaries present included members of the Parade Committee; as well as Mayors from the cities and towns in Puerto Rico. The musical group Somos Latinos provided entertainment for the ceremony.
Mayor Giuliani said, "The National Puerto Rican Day Parade is an important tradition, celebrating the outstanding contributions of the people of Puerto Rican heritage to the history of New York City. The Puerto Rican community is an important part of New York's fabled diversity. On behalf of all New Yorkers, I wish the Puerto Rican community great success for this year's parade."
The Mayor continued, "Tonight we pay tribute to a man who left an indelible mark on the Latin music world, Mr. Tito Puente. From his youth in East Harlem learning to play the piano and drums, and also learning to dance, Tito Puente introduced the entire country, and much of the world, to the sounds of Latin music. Mr. Puente received numerous awards and I am pleased to give his family another symbol of well-deserved recognition, the Key to the City of New York."
The Key to the City honors distinguished persons, honored guests and outstanding civic contributors to New York City. The presentation of a Key to the City can be traced back to medieval times, when cities were enclosed by walls and locked gates. By the middle of the 1800s, it became customary to give a Key to the City as a direct symbol of the City's wish that a guest feel free to come and go at will.
This year marks the 42nd Anniversary of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, which began in 1958. Six year's ago, the parade officially became the National parade of Puerto Rico.
The 2000 National Parade will take place on Sunday, June 11, along Fifth Avenue, with an estimated 100,000 marchers and 3 million spectators.