Floats decorated in red and green flooded the streets of Mineola Sunday as Portuguese-Americans from Long Island and beyond celebrated their heritage.
The Village of Mineola held its sixth Portugal Day Parade on the final day of this year’s Mineola Portuguese Feast and Carnival weekend, which began last Friday. Marchers in the parade gathered at Mineola Memorial Park, with the route beginning on the corner of Saville Road and Jericho Turnpike next to Chaminade High School. The parade route, which was more than a mile-and-a-half long, traveled east on Jericho Turnpike toward the finish line at Wilson Park on Union Street, where the carnival was being held.
“Sixth year in a row… and it’s not going anywhere if I have anything to say about it,” said Paul Pereira, deputy mayor of the Village of Mineola and a teacher at Mineola High School, who was named Portugal Day Parade grand marshal last month. “It’s great to see our neighbors out from Mineola and surrounding communities just coming out, as they do for St. Patrick’s Day, Columbus Day or any other holiday to celebrate the richness of our community, which is diversity.”
Pereira has served the Mineola community for nearly three decades, working as a teacher at Mineola High School for the last 26 years and coaching the school’s varsity boys’ soccer team for the last 22 – a position he retired from following this past season. His family immigrated to the United States from Portugal 42 years ago and last month the New York Portuguese American Leadership Conference named him the grand marshal for this year’s parade.
“It’s quite an honor to be distinguished in that way,” said Pereira. “I’ve been working my entire life not just for the Portuguese-American community but the Mineola community at large. I bleed Mineola, I bleed Portuguese-American culture and I bleed American culture, so it’s nice to get that recognition, but at the end of the day it’s not about me. It’s about seeing the kids on the side with the shirts and the jerseys and seeing the pride they have in being what they are.”
Attendance at this year’s Portugal Day Parade was not limited to just Mineola and its neighboring communities. Portuguese-American groups from other Long Island communities such as Brentwood and Farmingville took the trip west to Mineola to celebrate their culture, along with other groups from Rockland and Westchester counties and Connecticut.
“It’s a tribute to the organizers of this parade to get those groups to come down here,” said Pereira. “It also says a lot about the Village of Mineola, about our ability to receive this many people and do it in an orderly and safe fashion… in a way that everybody enjoys themselves, but it’s safe and appropriate.”
Coincidentally, this year’s Portugal Day Parade happened to land on the same day as the Portugal national team’s game against the Netherlands in the first-ever UEFA Nations League Final, a championship game that was won on home soil by Portugal, 1-0, giving Portuguese-Americans in Mineola more than just their culture to celebrate as the day continued.