Hispanic Heritage Month celebrated at the Viva Brevard fest in Palm Bay

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PALM BAY — Dancers in colorful skirts dancing in the hot October sun in Palm Bay on Saturday brought their friends Shelley Mangual and Flor Gonzalez home to Panama.

“(The dancers) bring back memories of our country,” said Gonzalez, who immigrated to the United States from Panama at least 45 years ago.

The two friends attended the Viva Brevard festival on Saturday afternoon at Fred Poppe Regional Park in Palm Bay with about 250 other people from the community. Vendors filled the grassy area outside the park’s community center, selling handmade jewelry, clothing and trinkets, as well as information about local organizations and state and local election candidates. Music pumped out from speakers set up on a stage behind the building, and friends and family reconnected as they roamed the festival.

Proceeds from the festival go to the Brevard Hispanic Center in Palm Bay, which helps individuals and families find resources for education, health services, family issues, immigration and economic empowerment.

While Mangual appreciated the memories the festival brought back, she also said she enjoyed learning about other people’s cultures and their similarities to her own.

Spectators dance for performers during the Viva Brevard Festival at Fred Poppe Regional Park in Palm Bay.  Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

“You get to know more people from different countries, different styles, different mindsets, different conversations,” she said. “You share each other’s interest in anything, food, companions, places, it depends. It’s a great joy for different countries.”

Just before 2 p.m., Palm Bay Mayor Rob Medina, whose family is originally from Puerto Rico, addressed the crowd, expressing his gratitude for the celebration.

“We live in a time when we can truly celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month,” he said. “We can really say that of all the different parts of the islands, the Caribbean or Latin America, we can be proud of.”

Spectators and members of Barranquilla's Carnival group take a selfie Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, during the Viva Brevard festival at Fred Poppe Regional Park in Palm Bay.  Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

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Other speakers included Palm Bay Councilman and Deputy Mayor Kenny Johnson, Councilman Donny Felix and Javier Molinares, president of the Brevard Hispanic Center.

Medina encouraged visitors to support the Brevard Hispanic Center and its work to help local Spanish speakers learn English. “Our Latin American community needs your support,” he said. “They are here to garner that support.”

Irma Albino, who moved from Puerto Rico to the United States when she was 14, said she loves events like this because of the information they provide.

Marilyn Pinto-Mertz and Dora Vizcaino smile for the camera in their Panamanian costumes during the Viva Brevard festival at Fred Poppe Regional Park in Palm Bay.  Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY via USA TODAY NETWORK

“It’s nice to bring together…the community, to get information that a lot of people don’t know about,” the 63-year-old said, adding that she appreciates vendors providing information about host families, mental health services and how to get started. a company. “When they come here, it’s easier.”

For others, the festival was a way to connect with others and sell their handmade items. Lucelena Speck, a Cocoa resident who grew up in Colombia, sold jewelry and decorations that she and her siblings made.

“It’s important because people get a chance to show off – if they make something they can sell it and people can come together,” she said.

She said she hadn’t sold her items in a long time but was thrilled to be able to donate them to the festival.

“I haven’t done it for a long time,” she said. “I’m going to start doing something (creating a website for my business) because I have so much stuff at home.”

Saturday’s festival is a prelude to the following weekend’s Puerto Rican Party Parade in Palm Bay. Albino said she would be part of the parade.

“It’s a pleasure to be here,” she said. “It’s an honor and a pleasure.”

Finch Walker is a Breaking News reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Walker at 321-290-4744 or [email protected]. Twitter: @_finchwalker

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