Few Hispanics expected in Columbus Day Parade

September 27, 1994|By James Bock | James Bock,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore's Columbus Day Parade will be short on Hispanic flavor this year, due to a clash between the event's Italian-American organizer and a Hispanic newsletter editor.

For 103 years, Baltimore's Italian-Americans have paraded on the second Sunday of October to celebrate Italian explorer Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage for the Spanish Crown. In recent years a large Hispanic contingent has joined them.

But, because of a dispute between parade organizer Victor Marino and editor Javier G. Bustamante over who should coordinate the Hispanic contingent, organizers say few Hispanics are expected to march around the Inner Harbor Oct. 9 in the 104th annual parade.

Mr. Bustamante is leading an Hispanic boycott of the parade. Some Hispanics want to hold their own parade next year.

The dispute arose when Mr. Marino bypassed the Hispanic Cultural Association, a small group of volunteers that had organized the Hispanic marchers for the past six years. He picked Lillian Laszlo, an Argentine-American who had left the group, to head the contingent.

The Hispanic Cultural Association has responded with fury. Mr. Bustamante, an association member and publisher of El Coloquio, a Spanish-language monthly, told Mr. Marino in a March 28 letter that his choice was a "slap in the face."

Most recently, in a Sept. 20 open letter, the association denounced Mr. Marino's "arrogant interference in the internal affairs of the community."

"He has insulted us," Mr. Bustamante said. "I don't understand deep, deep down what the problem is other than total lack of respect for the Hispanic community."

Mr. Marino said no insult was intended.

The Towson financial and estate planner, whose family has run the parade for most of the past three decades, said he simply wanted a good coordinator. Mrs. Laszlo successfully organized more than 500 Hispanic marchers in the 1992 quincentenary parade.

Mr. Marino formed a nonprofit corporation this year to run the parade on a $10,000 shoestring.

The city, which has cut support for the event, offers the parade a $2,000 grant but charges $6,000 for police protection and other services. He said he has enough problems without becoming embroiled in Hispanic rivalries.

"I don't feel responsible for their dissension," Mr. Marino said.

"We had this parade without the Hispanic community for almost 100 years, and it will go on another 100 years without them if that's what they want. They have a place in our parade whenever they want to."

Mr. Marino said he thought Mr. Bustamante was trying to dictate to him and wanted to take control of the parade eventually. He said the Hispanic community had been invited as a guest, not a partner, in a parade organized and financed mainly by Italian-Americans.

Mrs. Laszlo agreed. She noted that the Hispanic Cultural Association, in a letter to Mr. Bustamante's newsletter, had said it could not afford to help finance the parade.

The controversy has shaken the leadership of the Federation of Hispanic Organizations, an umbrella group for Hispanic clubs. Its president, Eduardo Acevedo, was forced by member groups to withdraw from the parade after saying the federation would participate.

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