Three Mineola Portuguese groups are in talks to merge and construct a new, larger facility in the village that would house the three organizations. The Mineola Portuguese Center, Portuguese Heritage Society and the Alheirense Cultural Center will combine efforts if the measure is approved.
The three clubs voted in November to hold a public hearing in February.
“I think this will benefit everyone, not only the Portuguese community but the community in general,” said Portuguese Heritage Society Secretary Board of Directors Manuel Silva said. “It’s about bringing everyone together, teaching young ones about the culture and a lot more. There’s a big Portuguese presence in Mineola and we’re going to need everyone to be supportive of this idea.”
The new Portuguese center would include a large ballroom, gym, library/study space, classrooms and a coffee shop. The groups are also currently vetting options to add a museum dedicated to the history of the Portuguese community’s contribution to Nassau County in the plan.
“Having one Portuguese cultural center in Mineola would be an amazing achievement and is long overdue,” the Escola Portuguesa Julio Dinis of Mineola, the Portuguese School, said in a statement. The school has operated in the village since 1974. “The merger would allow the center to be in one physical location and allow for greater collaboration in providing and promoting cultural and social understanding of Portuguese traditions and ideals to the community and future generations of Portuguese Americans.”
With the ever-present, yet still growing Portuguese traditions in Mineola being in the spotlight with the yearly Portugal Day celebration and Portugal Day Parade in June, group officials feel the younger generation would benefit from a centralized location where they can learn about their homeland.
“Seeing the parade was incredible,” Silva said. “I think it brought the community together and has made the younger generation more vocal.”
The plan, if approved, would be modeled after a similar 1998 merger of the Portuguese American Club and Sons of Portugal Club in Danbury, Conn. The Connecticut plan called for a new building with bigger facilities, officials said.
“The new center would allow all these clubs to still exist where they can organize and meet together,” Gabriel Marques of the Portuguese Parliament’s Diaspora Advisory Council said.
According to Silva, the three groups plan to sell the three headquarters to help finance the construction of the new facility. Officials suggested that businesses and club members have offered to help with expenses and procure museum items if the plan is given the go-ahead.
“Each group would need to have their properties evaluated and see what each one is worth,” Silva said. “At the end of the day, you need to finance this initiative somehow. It’s going to come down to the current properties. It’s not about who brings in more. It’s about creating something nice for the community.”
The first Portuguese center in Mineola was housed in the Davenport Press in the 1920s before moving to the current Mineola Portuguese Center’s Jericho Turnpike location in 1936. The Lusitano Soccer Club re-branded itself as the Portuguese Heritage Society at a storefront at 73 Roslyn Rd. before relocating to 290 Willis Ave. in 1976.
The heritage society moved to its location at 133 Willis Ave. in 1995 around the time the Alheirense Cultural Center was founded. Alheirense occupies Lusitano Hall at the heritage society’s second location.
The public hearing on the merger is Friday, Feb. 26, at 7:30 p.m. in the Mineola Portuguese Center headquarters at 306 Jericho Tpke. in Mineola. The meeting is open to members and non-members, who will have three minutes to speak.