Hundreds celebrate Brazilian culture, food at Lake Eola festival

Patti Martins was eager to show off her Brazilian heritage to her partner, Teryn Tucker, and her son, Rowdy, Sunday at Lake Eola Park.

As they walked through booths at Brazilian Day Orlando, Rowdy picked at a slice of Brazil’s rendition of pizza, which uses less sauce with more olive oil and native seasonings. He said he was enjoying the slice and Martins smiled, happy to hear they were enjoying the festival at Lake Eola Park.

“I’ve always been big on that Brazilians are very friendly,” Martins said. “I’m trying to introduce [them] to the culture.”

The festival brought hundreds of Brazilians to the park to celebrate the nation’s music, dancing, food and businesses.

Central Florida is home to the largest population of Brazilians in the United States with about 300,000, the nation’s consulate in Miami said. About 10,000 live in Orange and Osceola counties.

Although Visit Florida reported a dip in visitors from Brazil last year, Central Florida remains a popular stop for vacationers from the South American country. Last year 1.1 million tourists from Brazil came to Florida, trailing just Canada and the United Kingdom, the consulate said.

Caio Castro, who helps organize similar celebrations around the country, said more from South America’s largest country are on the way as it continues to struggle through its worst-ever recession. The unemployment rate has hovered around 13 percent, which has led to businesses investing in the United States.

“A lot of people love to invest in Florida because it’s so close to Brazil,” said Castro said. “The weather is the same, the vibe is the same.”

He continued, “A lot of people try to at least invest here… [they] try to have both sides — stay in Brazil for a while and come back to the United States.”

However, Bruna Paes, 19, came to Central Florida three years ago with her parents and younger sister to escape violence in their…

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