Festival Latino: You won't see these dancers in the parade ...

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LEE — Festival Latino of the Berkshires won't be dancing down Main Street at this year's Lee Founders Weekend Hometown Parade.

Due to internal issues, according to co-founder Liliana Ortiz-Bermudez, Festival Latino will be limiting its involvement in the annual town celebration to a gathering in the park next to the First Congregational Church of Lee.

"It's very sad for me," Ortiz-Bermudez told The Eagle during a recent telephone interview.

Essentially, a staffing and leadership shortage made it particularly difficult to book parade performers this year, Ortiz-Bermudez said. The organization has been a part of Founders Weekend since 1996, one year after the nonprofit's formation.

"It's like we show with our music and the dancing on the street that we are living here happily ... We show that Lee and [the] Berkshires is a community where Latinos are welcome," the co-founder said of why participating in the parade means so much to Festival Latino.

With various organizational responsibilities occupying her time, Ortiz-Bermudez was unable to devote all of her attention to Founders Weekend events.

"I think, to continue with the festival, I really need an assistant," she said.

Still, it's not as if there won't be any music and dancing. The celebration at the park — a non-alcoholic, family event — will run from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. With a DJ cranking tunes, Ortiz-Bermudez expects Zumba and other forms of dancing to break out. Latino vendors will also be serving up dishes to boost spirits.

Later that night, dancers will fill the Tally Ho space at the Eastover Estate & Retreat, the site of the organization's annual Latin Gala. Alexander y su Orquesta, a Boston group, will lead the crowd in various tunes. Salsa, reggaeton, merengue, bachata and cumbia tropicales are all on the musical menu, according to the event's Facebook page. A $25 cover charge is required for entry, according to Eastover's website.

Festival Latino's events coincide with the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage month. Ortiz-Bermudez, who hails from Colombia, said that when she first came to the Berkshires, people kept asking her if she liked tacos. "I [had] never heard the word tacos," she said, noting that everybody assumed she was Mexican. This lack of cultural understanding — both her questioners' and her own — led her to help found Festival Latino.

"It's a festival just to focus to keep the Latino culture alive in the Berkshires: the art, the music, the dance, and the customs," she said.


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