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South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Puerto Rican Group To Showcase Businesses

By Beth Feinstein-Bartl

November 8, 2002
Copyright © 2002 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

A business expo with a bit of spice is how organizers at the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Broward County describe the second annual Fiestas Patronales.

The bilingual event, planned for Thursday through Nov. 17, will feature a traditional expo with displays by local businesses, along with Hispanic food, music, art work and crafts. Admission is free.

Hours for the festival will be 6 to 11 p.m. Thursday and Nov. 15, 10 a.m. to midnight on Nov. 16 and noon to 9 p.m. on Nov. 17 in the Pines Recreation Center at 7400 Pines Blvd. in Pembroke Pines.

Fiestas Patronales, which means "Patrons' Festivities," is a tradition in all 78 cities in Puerto Rico. The tradition originated in Spain and celebrates each town's patron saint.

"The whole idea was to bring the town together and to help the businesses," said Frank Nieves, chamber president. "We're taking all that and bringing it here."

At the Pines Recreation Center, almost 100 businesses from South Florida, New York, Chicago, Puerto Rico and Orlando will promote their products. Displays will range from gourmet foods to Realtors and cargo companies, Nieves said.

The participating businesses represent all nationalities, not just Puerto Rico, said Nieves, president and owner of TelDar Telecommunications Solutions Inc. in Miramar.

There will be plenty of entertainment, too, including performances by Latin tropical singers from Puerto Rico and South Florida, who will perform mostly salsa music, Nieves said.

Visitors can also view and purchase works such as paintings, Latin drums and crafts made of wood and ceramics by some 13 Puerto Rican-born artists.

Several pieces will depict the coqui, a miniature frog that is native only to the island, Nieves said.

Another activity will be a game called Picas, involving a machine pitting wooden horses racing against each other. Winners will receive stuffed animals as prizes, Nieves said.

The game is "super popular" in Puerto Rico, he said.

For those who get hungry, vendors will sell Latin and Puerto Rican foods such as a fried fish dish called bacalaitos and a dough made of vegetables and ground beef named alcapurias. Or folks can chow down on arroz con gandules, known as rice with peas, Nieves said.

"This is going to be an event for the entire family," he said.

The chamber is expecting about 25,000 people to visit the recreation center during the festival's four-day run, he said.

Organizers anticipate better attendance than the first Fiestas Patronales, which was scheduled for last September and had to be postponed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The event was moved to November 2001.

The festival is the largest event sponsored by the chamber. The group will turn 3 years old in June and has about 170 members.

The chamber's offices are at 7104 Pembroke Road in Miramar. According to 2000 U.S. census figures, 3,800 Puerto Ricans live in that city.

Elsewhere in South Broward, census data from 2000 shows 1,632 Puerto Ricans live in Weston, 669 in Dania Beach, 266 in Pembroke Park, 3,285 in Davie, 714 in Cooper City and 1,027 in Hallandale Beach.

Hollywood's Puerto Rican population of 7,463 is the largest in Broward County. The fasting-growing, however, is in Pembroke Pines, where the community has more than quadrupled to 6,887.

Events like Fiestas Patronales offer another opportunity for people in the community, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, to mingle, said Margaret Delmont-Sanchez, fund-raising and special projects manager for Hispanic Unity, a nonprofit organization in Hollywood.

At the chamber's festival, Hispanic Unity will provide a tent with free health screenings and information on the different services offered by the group, such as job placement, English as a Second Language classes and support groups for HIV and AIDS patients, she said.

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