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Portuguese parade displays cultural, community pride in Mineola

The second annual New York State Portugal Day

The second annual New York State Portugal Day Parade in Mineola on Sunday, May 31, 2015, celebrated the rich history and tradition of the Portuguese-American community on Long Island. Above, dancers from the Mineola Portuguese Center at the previous year's parade on June 8, 2014. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The daughter of Portuguese immigrants looked to the thousands of parade marchers in Mineola Sunday and recalled a childhood that did not involve, well, parades.

"It was a little different; we didn't all gather like this," said Jessica Percevejo, 27, of East Meadow, holding her young godson and waving a Portuguese flag at the second annual parade to be held in Mineola. The village is among Long Island and New York's strongest Portuguese-American communities. "Closing Jericho Turnpike for two hours is an amazing thing we're able to do to show our pride."

She was among 12,000 parade marchers and spectators to shut down the usually high-traffic thoroughfare, and other nearby streets all renamed "Portugal Boulevard" on green and red street signs.

For many, the crowd of immigrants, their children and supporters told a story of cultural ascension. Mineola counts nearly 1,900 Portuguese-born residents, among roughly 5,100 on Long Island, according to recent census data.

Folk dancers followed fire trucks and vintage automobiles -- among 50 floats -- through the parade route. Patricia Mendes, 24, of Mineola danced with others dressed as a wealthy farmer from Portugal in hand-knit wool linens with golden jewelry draped around her neck. She was with her mother, Alcinda Mendes, 48, who emigrated from Portugal in 1989.

Mendes, who was born in the United States, said she was "proud to see a lot of second-generation" immigrants extending the traditions of their parents. While growing up and attending the local Portuguese school, in addition to her regular classes, she said the strength of the community was not felt as it was on this day.

State Sen. Jack Martins, whose parents emigrated from Portugal in 1963, said the Portuguese-American population has "matured" into a well-organized community.

Martins, a former mayor of Mineola, said many Portuguese immigrants arrived from Massachusetts or elsewhere to work on construction projects about a century ago. In the 1930s, he said, many worked on the Long Island Rail Road.

In Mineola, they attend the local cultural school and visit restaurants specializing in the local flavor.

"This is an evolution of a community that has assimilated without forgetting where they came from," said Martins (R-Mineola).

Teresa Morais, Portugal's secretary of state for parliamentary affairs and equality, came bearing her Portuguese flag pin and another, below it, with the Portuguese flag linked to the village's in a single pin.

Perhaps the single greatest sign of assimilation came in the form of Zumba dancers, moving to the parade's finish line, to Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

"We do it all," said Manuela Anastacio, 49, of Mineola. "Although we live here and are content here, we still want to keep the traditions."


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