Mineola Portugal Day Parade, a celebration of culture, draws thousands

Mineola Portugal Day Parade, a celebration of culture, draws thousands
Women and men dressed in traditional Portuguese clothing march proudly down the street as part of Mineola Portuggal Day Parade. (Photo by David Pollard)

By David Pollard

If there was ever any question that the Portuguese-American presence in Long Island was vibrant, one only needed to stop by Mineola Sunday morning.

Thousands of people who are Portuguese or who are of Portuguese descent showed up on June 11 along to see the Mineola’s annual Portuguese Day Parade and enjoy the 30th annual Portugal Carnival and Feast at Wilson Park, where the parade ended.

John and Karla De-Oliveira set up along the Jericho Turnpike, where the parade began, to see the more than 30 floats and organizations that made up the parade. The brought their two young sons, Henry, 8 months old, and Jack, 4 months old, to get a first-hand look at Portuguese culture.

John De-Oliveira, 42, said he and his wife are proud to be of Portuguese descent and growing up in Mineola it was instilled in him.

“That’s what I like most about the parade is sharing it with the kids,” he said.

A lot of that Portuguese pride has come about due to the efforts of Portuguese-American organizations in Mineola. The Mineola Portuguese Center is one of those organizations.

Fernando Frade, 62, president of Mineola Portuguese Center, said the organization has been around since the 1930s and has worked to keep Portuguese culture and pride alive in the community.

“When we first came here [to the United States] we couldn’t speak English well and needed to be together to create events and social organizations,” he said.

Prior to the parade he was busy trying to do his part to make sure the parade started on time.

“It’s all volunteer work,” he said.

The parade featured groups from the motorcycle club Luso American Riders and the Long Island Portuguese Lions Club to marching bands and men and women walking the parade route dressed in traditional Portuguese clothing.

Frade said the parade and carnival brings members of the Portuguese community back to its roots.

Catarina Henriques, 27, said he attend every year with her mother Maria Henriques.

“Every year it gets better and better,” she said. “It does keep the culture together. It makes you closer to your parent’s heritage and keeps the old groups alive.”

Renato Tavares, the parade’s Man of the Year, was given the honor for his work helping the homeless and less fortunate in the community.

He said he wasn’t looking for any accolades for what he does and was surprised that he was recognized.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “I’m still in shock. These are the people (event organizers) that inspire me to do more.”

For Rosa Leal, keeping the Portuguese culture alive is her passion.

One of the originators of the parade and this year’s Grand Marshal, she said she didn’t have much time to relish in her achievement. Like her brother, Frade, she was busy making sure the parade started on time without any problems.

So she did a lot of moving around, making sure everyone was in their place and shaking hands with everyone from the politicians to her longtime friends participating in the parade.

She said she looks at the event as a successful one and smiles.

“It was a great turnout and I’m very honored,” she said. “I’ve been in the community for 49 years and I love to organize it [the parade]. I love seeing the culture of our roots and seeing the excitement on the face of our kids.”

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