Marco Polo Parade Showcases a Mix of Cultures

The blending of cultures on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan was definitely on display Saturday during the eighth annual Marco Polo Festival. The streets were filled with spectators of all ages and ethnicities, street performances and food from Italian and Chinese cultures.

This election season has brought to light the importance of immigrants and their role in the community, and this parade honors their contributions. The Marco Polo Festival works to bridge the gap between Asian and European cultures.

Chinese students from P.S. 105 performed the Tarantella, a traditional Italian dance, essentially showing the blending of two cultures.

Victor Papa, the President of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, explained why the festival is important to the community.

“To commemorate the symbolic coexistence of two immigrant communities and the celebration of that immigrant experience in an effort to preserve to very important communities,” said Papa.

The festival, which was founded in 2008, encapsulates the meeting between Marco Polo, an Italian explorer, and Kublai Khan, the Mongolian ruler and founder of the Yuan Dynasty. Khan accepted Polo with open arms in China after his many travel throughout Asia. This meeting, which took place over 800 years ago, is still relevant today because it shows how different cultures can work together. The parade itself is symbolic because it connects two groups together, much like the Silk Road. The Silk Road represents the path taken by Polo into China.

“This country is built on immigration, built on us coming together and sharing and that that’s the spirit of Marco Polo” said Denis Belliveau of Queens, a world traveler and enthusiast of Polo’s voyage.