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Welcome to the Long Island Diversity Back Story Tour, where you can hear stories about local traditions. Communities from all over the world make their homes here on Long Island, including Portuguese immigrants and their descendants in the town of Mineola, who founded the Mineola Portuguese Center in the 1930s. The Center includes Portuguese folk dance groups for children and teenagers. "Sonhos de Portugal," or "Dreams of Portugal," started in 1985 and provides an opportunity for children to learn about Portuguese dance and music at a young age. One year later, in 1986, a dance group for older kids and teenagers was formed called "Rancho Juventude." Some primary cultural activities at the Center include Portuguese folk dance groups for children and teenagers. "Sonhos de Portugal," or "Dreams of Portugal," started in 1985 and provides an opportunity for children to learn about Portuguese dance and music at a young age. One year later, in 1986, a dance group for older kids and teenagers was formed called "Rancho Juventude." One of the early members of the Rancho Juventude is Tony Da Silva, now the group's director, a first-generation Portuguese American who joined the group at age 14. Even before he joined the Rancho, Tony had been dancing since he was a small child, at family parties and holiday events. Tony Da Silva: When I was between 4 and 18, I grew up here in Mineola, and they always had the biggest groups coming here to play and dance, and that was like the best part of it. There was like no weekend that there wouldn't be a dance, you know? I guess I just like to dance. That's how I started, I always liked to dance, since I was a kid. My mother always told me, if I heard music, I would just get up and dance with my cousins, I'd dance with everybody. I was just one of those- I loved music. Today, Tony is the Director of Rancho Juventude, where he passes on his love of ranchos folclóricos dances to new generations of Portuguese Americans, including his own two children. Although the dancers' families come from all over Portugal, the dances and music that the group perform mainly represent the northern Portuguese district Viana do Costelo, which is a traditionally agricultural region. Tony Da Silva: It's usually a two-step/three-step dance, a lot of twisting and turning, fast-paced. The girls wear socas, that makes the clacking of their shoe to the sound of our castanets, that’s how- They both go to the beat of the drum. It's the twirling of the outfits, especially the girls, as they turn, that twirling, that makes the dances unique. The choreography is very on step. We practice and practice, and it’s tough, some of the songs we do, the inter-crossing of the songs, has to be choreographed very specific. I always call it- You know, people say "Oh, it's just a dance," I say, to me it's a professional dance, I don't care what anybody says. How we learned it, it was great, for those who taught us. I call it professional because not anyone can just get up and do it, OK? So to me it's a professional dance, from Portugal. And like I said, in the songs itself, between the lyrics and whatever we're doing, it describes something from Portugal, whether it was having fun while they were working in the fields, while they were knitting, or threading their clothing. These were songs that were performed for pastimes. The day had to go by somehow. The Rancho Juventude dancers are accompanied by a band consisting of guitars, accordions, called concertinas, wooden noisemakers, and singers. The dancers themselves contribute to the music as well: The young men carry castanets, which they clack together in time with the music and with their dance steps; the women wear hard-soled slippers called socas, which mirror the sound of the castanets when they strike the dancefloor. Joseph Macedo is a concertina player who has accompanied the Rancho Juventude. He was born in the north Portuguese town of Barcelos, where he learned to play concertina by following the lead of other musicians. Joseph Macedo: What happened was I was about, uh, 12 years old, and my older brother got a raffle ticket, got a ticket for one dollar, that he bought, a concertina, an old one, an accordion, an old accordion. And my brother got it, and he came home one day with it, and he was working, so he was not interested in learning. So when he came home, he left it at home, and then he went back to work, and left it home. So I'm looking at the thing, and I start to get interested in it, and I start feeling the keys, and little by little I start learning—it took me a while. I start to learn, 'cause I had the time, and that's how I started, you know. He brought the concertina home, and little by little I start playing, and never stop. Any time I heard somebody playing, I used to walk towards them and listen to them. And then after a while, my younger brother started to learn how to play through me. So I have another brother knows how to play very well. And that’s how it started. Since I love music, I enjoy, then 'cause you stick with it, and keep learning. ‘Cause the more you play the more you learn. Even today, I’m learning new songs. And that’s how it is. Portuguese Americans in Mineola see the Rancho Juventude as an important way to share their heritage with the broader Mineola community and, most importantly, with new. When asked about the future of the group, Tony points to the dancers—young men and women who have been performing together since they were children. Tony Da Silva: I'll be here as long as I can, I'll support everyone here, but it's like everything else, you need the younger generation to continue it. I have faith in them. I have one hundred percent faith in them, that they'll continue, because I can see it in their- It's in them. They like Portugal, they like the Portuguese culture, the community, the food, and just hanging out and having fun. It's all about that, just having fun. Ready for more stories? Continue on our Long Island Diversity journey. This program was curated by Georgia Ellie Dassler. This program is funded by the NY State Council on the Arts and the Robert Gardiner Foundation.