Mineola to host second Portugal Day parade

James Galloway

Mineola, home to one of Long Island’s largest and most active Portuguese populations, will host the second annual New York State Portugal Day parade Sunday — the sequel to an inaugural celebration last year that drew thousands.

Portugal Day, officially June 10, commemorates the death in 1580 of renowned poet Luís de Camões, the author of the epic “Os Lusíadas,” and celebrates history and heritage of Portuguese communities across the world.

About 5,000 people attended the inaugural parade in 2014, according to Gabriel Marques, chairman of the New York Portuguese Leadership Conference, who added he could foresee an even larger crowd this year if the weather is nice.

“Without a doubt this is the largest Portuguese event in New York state,” said Mineola Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira, who emigrated from Portugal in 1977. “The turnout last year was spectacular. In a way it’s the manifestation of the arrival or the acceptance of the Portuguese community.”

Rosa Leal, an organizer of the event, estimated last year’s turnout was well above 5,000.

“Last year, we got about 10,000 people,” she said. “I’m expecting a bit more (this year).”

More than 40 Portuguese clubs from the northeast and as far away as Washington D.C. are scheduled to march, and parade organizers promise more than 20 floats and dozens of vintage cars and tractors.

In addition to the parade, the festivities will feature Portuguese pop singers and traditional Portuguese food, dancing and folk music, including a group of over 40 accordion players.

“We’re having tons of different things from our culture,” Leal said. “I love this parade, and what I love the most is that the whole community comes together, and they’re so wonderful and so friendly, and everybody is willing to help.  

State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who was named Nassau County’s Portuguese Man of the Year in 2012, was selected to serve as the grand marshal for the parade, along with Portuguese Secretary of State for Equality and Parliamentary Affairs Teresa Morais.

“Mineola is a diverse community with a rich history of celebrating the tapestry of cultures that make it the special place it is. It’s wonderful to see the village come together to celebrate Portugal Day and the Portuguese-American community,” Martins said. “As the son of Portuguese immigrants, I am honored to have been chosen as the grand marshal. A heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the organizers of this great event.”

Pereira, an honorary marshal for the parade, said that like St. Patrick’s Day to the Irish, the Portugal Day parade allows the Portuguese people to celebrate their heritage but also to share it with the broader community.

“It’s a way for Portuguese Americans to come together and celebrate the culture that binds them and share their culture with others that may not know it or may not understand it,” he said.

Marques said the NYPLC, which was founded last year along with the parade, fills a vacuum in the community left by the closing of the Portuguese Civic Association of New York and that the parade marks an “unbelievable” coming together of the Portuguese civic associations and clubs.

The Portuguese people, Marques said, are defined by their work ethic, civic engagement, community service and strong sense of morals.

“Since we were young the first thing you learn is you’re Portuguese first and everything else second,” Marques said. “It’s a very selfless heritage we have, and it’s one where the kids always grow up immersed.”

The parade begins at 11 a.m. at the Mineola Portuguese Center on Jericho Turnpike, which is renamed Portugal Boulevard for the day of the celebration, and winds its way down Roslyn Road to Westbury Avenue to Union Street toward Wilson Park, where Bairrada Restaurant will host the after parade festivities.

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James Galloway

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