On May 5th, President Tony Da Silva and the Mineola-based folklore groups Rancho Juventude and Sonhos de Portugal performed before a crowd of over 350 during the “Spotlight on Portugal” segment at Hofstra University’s 30th Annual Dutch Festival.
The traditional folkdance dance groups, representing the region of Portugal known as Minho, were introduced by support from a wide-array of Portuguese community leaders, including event guest-M.C. and Hofstra Alumnus Gabriel Marques, New York State Senator Jack Martins, Village of Mineola Deputy-Mayor Paul Pereira as well as civic group presidents Frank Teixeira (Mineola Portuguese Center), Manuel Rodrigues (Portuguese Heritage Society), Fernanda Aguas (LI Portuguese Lions Club) and Rosa Leal (Daughters of Portugal).
President Da Silva was then introduced, joined by Nancy Solomon, Executive Director of Long Island Traditions and adjunct professor of anthropology at Hofstra, to detail the history and significance of ranchos in the Portuguese culture.
After the formalities, the sounds of castanets and concertinas took over, complementing the colorful display of traditional dresses and suits from the dancers. Performances were also supplemented with President Da Silva’s periodic explanations to the audience of the group’s instruments, clothing, traditional farming tools and singing.
Members also distributed traditional Portuguese snacks of lupini beans and black olives to the crowd, giving the event a humbling experience of how farm life was like in Portugal during the mid-1900’s.
“What Tony [Da Silva], Joe Pontes and the rest of the directors of the Rancho groups have done and continue to do for our community is immeasurable and we are truly grateful for all their time and commitment,”said New York State Senator Jack Martins.
For Hofstra’s Alumnus Gabriel Marques , he felt lucky “to have great local support, like that from Hofstra University, allowing us to showcase our community in notable events and continuing to represent ourselves as one of the many diverse cultures that make up the fabric of Long Island,” he remarked.
The Portuguese American community appearance during the Dutch Festival marked the official “kick-off” of June as “Portuguese Heritage Month” in Nassau County. The community has events scheduled each weekend in June, which combine into a month-long celebration of “Dia de Portugal” (Day of Portugal), the largest holiday of the Portuguese communities world-wide.
The festivities start with the Long Island Portuguese Lions Club annual Pic-Nic at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Sunday June 2, followed by the Mineola Portuguese Center’s annual Carnival at Wilson Park in Mineola on the weekend of June 8 and 9, the Nassau County Portugal Day Celebration on Monday June 10th at the County Seat building, Mineola Portugal Day Festival at Bairrada Restaurant in Mineola on the weekend of June 15 and 16, and comes to a close with the Portuguese Heritage Society’s annual summer feast in Mineola on the weekend of June 22 and 23.
All photo credits: Cristina Marques.