Riverdale’s Bill Aguado chosen as parade ‘king’

Art director among locals to be feted on Three Kings Day parade


It’s the 12th day of Christmas — a day many refer to as Epiphany, but in some places in the world, is commemorated as Three Kings Day, honoring the trio of kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem to see baby Jesus Christ in the manger.

Three Kings is celebrated each year with a parade — and on Friday, it features Riverdale’s own Bill Aguado.

The art director of En Foco, Aguado is one of the three kings taking part in the East Harlem event hosted by El Museo del Barrio.

Aguado is not only a longtime Riverdale resident, but is also a long-term art enthusiast. He retired as executive director for the Bronx Council on the Arts in 2010, but didn’t stay away long. He joined En Foco in 2015 when he heard the art collective that has supported photographers of Latin, African, Asian Native American and Pacific Islander heritage, was in financial trouble. He took it upon himself to continue the legacy.

Founded in 1974 as a collective for Puerto Rican photographers to address the lack of representation, access to resources, and funding, En Foco has published its own twice-yearly magazine — Nueva Luz — since 1958.

“It’s become an important platform for artists, and is the basis of the archive,” Aguado said, “We have digitized every artist. This is the legacy of Puerto Rican, Latino, African-American, Asian artists now.”

The archives are most special to Aguado, believing it’s critical to preserve artist contributions because so many other community organizations have disappeared and lost the records, the history, and the legacy of all who worked so hard to contribute. He describes En Foco as an important model for others to follow in the need to not just preserve history, but make it publicly available.

En Foco gives out grants and nearly a dozen scholarships every year. Funded partially by the city’s cultural affairs department — and in partnerships with other city and non-profit departments — the collective successfully funded $15,000 in scholarships this year, compared to $10,000 the year before.

For this year’s Three King’s Day parade, Aguado will be dressed as Don Quixote — something he says fits him perfectly. The character created by 17th century author Miguel de Cervantes has been an important guide throughout Aguado’s own life.

“Managing a nonprofit is like fighting the windmills,” he said, referencing Quixote’s famous foe. “You never know when you’ll be cut off, or when you’ll be censored.”

Aguado grew up hearing his parents talk about Three Kings Day back in Puerto Rico.

“It’s very much a wonderful folklore, and for many, we celebrate it as a memory of a time that doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “To maintain our culture. To maintain our history.”

Aguado was shocked when he learned he was chosen to participate in the parade. He admits he has been an honoree previously, but to be chosen as one of the three “kings” is different.

“I’ve gotten a lot of honors,” he said, “but when your own recognizes you, that’s important.

“It reminds me of growing up as a kid with my parents. It reminds me of what my mother and brothers and sisters and cousins would talk about, and the histories of Puerto Rico that I read, and the importance of it as a symbol of our cultural independence as a colony.

“This is who we are. This is where we came from, and this is what we need to support.”

And for those who might not know, Aguado’s work with En Foco is entirely volunteer.

“Being retired, I’d rather give back with the skills that I’ve developed over the years,” he said, “so I enjoy my time as a volunteer. But that’s coming to an end pretty soon.”

Aguado coyly admits he will turn 78 this year, and already has selected someone to fill his shoes.

Oscar Rivera is En Foco’s current interim managing director and chief curator.

“He’s someone to watch out for,” Aguado said. “Am I ever so delighted. I enjoy working with him, and I expect to continue as a mentor to him as much as he needs.

“I’m so impressed with him. He’s got it all, and I want to lend my support to make sure he succeeds.”

Aguado speaks of his role with En Foco in high regard. He’s been involved in the arts since 1971, and has enjoyed all the opportunities he has given to artists to have their voices heard.

Although Aguado is moving on from En Foco in the coming years, he’ll continue to stay involved. His work to represent the different communities are too important for him to ever give up permanently.

“Someone will always want to create,” Aguado said. “Someone needs to create.”

Bill Aguado, three Kings Day, parade, En Foco, Christmas, christianity