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Central American Parade and Festival honors national heritages

Thousands of people flocked to Hempstead marking Central

Thousands of people flocked to Hempstead marking Central America's independence with dancing, traditional music and food to celebrate their roots and heritage on Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. Credit: Uli Seit

Visitors by the dozens flocked to Hempstead Sunday along Franklin Avenue waving flags and playing music for the Central American Parade and Festival.

Organizers celebrated their 25th year honoring Central American heritage and the Sept. 15 Independence Day for Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The anniversary marks the date the five Central American countries declared their independence from Spain in 1821.

Floats carrying dancers, beauty pageant contestants and Garifuna drum groups drove behind community organizations, and dignitaries marched down Franklin Street to the festival near Hempstead Village Hall.

"This shows the culture of all our residents. It's a very diverse community," Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby said. "It hasn't stopped for 25 years and attracts people from all over."

Melina Campos, 17, of Summit, New Jersey, wore a red, white and blue dress as part of a Maleku dance group to celebrate Costa Rican independence.

"It's an honor for Costa Rica to be represented here," Campos said. "This keeps the tradition together."

The parade brought out about 200 spectators Sunday. The event has grown since it began in 1989, and groups from throughout the East Coast participate, organizers Deysi Perez and Martha Montero said.

Organizers have been able to help young girls get involved in pageants and community programs that are part of the parade and eventually into college, Perez said.

"The community comes to show their colors and show their roots," Perez said. "When we started, we never thought this was going to happen. Now it's not only one country."

Shops along Franklin Avenue sold flags and T-shirts for each country. One couple's dachshund wore an El Salvadoran flag on its back.

Esly Rodriguez, 15, of Hempstead and her family lined the street as the parade approached. She said it followed the Aug. 6 Feast of San Salvador, held in honor of Jesus Christ, the patron "saint" of El Salvador.

"It's nice to come get a taste of our country and a memory of where we came from twice a year," Rodriguez said. "It puts all our countries together to make for a great party."

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