By Madeline Armstrong
Salvadoran Americans from throughout the Hempstead-Uniondale community gathered on the fields at NuHealth’s A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale to show their support for New York Soccer Latin Academy teams and celebrate Salvadoran culture Aug. 7.
Tents with people selling sliced mango and Salvadoran cuisine bustled as players and their parents and coaches got food. Children in brightly colored soccer uniforms gathered under the shade of the trees, joking and kicking soccer balls back and forth while watching their teammates compete.
In July 2006, Congress declared Aug. 6 as National Salvadoran-American Day — a celebration of Salvadorans living in the United States — though Salvadoran cultural celebrations were held as far back as the 1990s. Aug. 6 is a central holiday in El Salvador called Fiesta Patronales (the Patron Feast), or Dia de El Salvador del Mundo (Day of the Savior of the World, referring to Jesus Christ, after whom El Salvador is named). Every year, Salvadorans in Nassau County gather for a weekend celebration in the Hempstead-Uniondale area.
This year there were four events. Aug. 5 was a children’s celebration at Lincoln Park in Hempstead. On Aug. 6, there was a celebration of Salvadoran artists at the African American Museum in Hempstead, and the next day, there was the soccer tournament at A. Holly Patterson. Later on Sunday, a festival was held to conclude the weekend of celebrations.
The soccer tournament attracted 25 teams, with players ranging in age from 9 to 14. Angel Sosa, volunteer and head of public relations and marketing for NYSLA, said the club has historically sponsored Sunday’s events. Following the pandemic, though, another group hosted the concluding festival this year.
“Due to Covid, things have changed a little bit in the past couple of years,” Sosa said. “We used to hold the festival also, but because of finances and lack of sponsors and financial support, we had to give it up.”
Sosa also said sponsors in El Salvador used to contribute to the festivals, but the support stopped during the pandemic. All participants hosting and running the events are volunteers. Additionally, this year NYSLA teams contributed to pay for the tournament referees.
“We’re all volunteers here,” Sosa said. “We don’t receive any state grants or anything like that. The funding in the past few years came from people who helped us out with food and toys for the kids.”
NYSLA is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Sosa said organization officials had hoped to hold an event celebrating the milestone, but it was not possible, noting, “Due to the circumstances of Covid, we haven’t been able to prepare an event as we would like it.”
Overall, Sosa said, the tournament and other celebrations offered people from throughout the Hempstead-Uniondale area a chance to engage with the Salvadoran community and enjoy its rich culture and cuisine.