Volunteers from Festival Latino at its annual festival held at the Town Hall Green on Saturday, Sept. 24. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Festival Latino celebrates Hispanic heritage

“We are here to celebrate, connect, and create a deeper bond between the different diverse communities of the Berkshires,” Festival Latino public relations coordinator Erika Wainwright Velez said. “I think an event like this is important because the Latin American community here has been growing in the Berkshires."

Great Barrington — For over 25 years, the nonprofit organization Festival Latino has celebrated Hispanic heritage in Berkshire County. As part of its mission, and to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month, the organization held its annual festival at the Town Hall Green on Saturday, September 24.

Festival Latino public relations coordinator Erika Wainwright Velez and volunteer Angelica Delasquez dancing with participants at the festival. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

The event included Hispanic music and traditional dancing, a selection of Latino foods, along with multiple social service organizations from around Berkshire County.

Volunteer Bernardino Aguilar was the DJ for the event, spinning around Hispanic music for people to dance to. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

“We are here to celebrate, connect, and create a deeper bond between the different diverse communities of the Berkshires,” Festival Latino public relations coordinator Erika Wainwright Velez said. “I think an event like this is important because the Latin American community here has been growing in the Berkshires. But just above all, we’re here to celebrate the joy and culture that we share. We also want to showcase our roots of where we come from, along with the values that we hold and an expression of our culture.”

Dancers taking part in the festival. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Representatives from The Berkshire Immigrant Center: Jim Ciullo, Cam Dus, and Lorena Dus. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

One of the organizations at the festival was the Berkshire Immigrant Center. 
“We’re here to help the immigrants of Berkshire County and to let them know that we are here to help anybody, no matter what their status or economic situation,” organization representative Lorena Dus said. “Our Hispanic culture in the Berkshires continues to grow and the immigrants who come here bring so much to the community, not only with the culture, but their skills. I hope that people who are not immigrants or Hispanic continue to support these kinds of events because we all have a lot to learn from other people’s cultures.”

The Greenagers booth at Festival Latino, where children took part in making Mexican Amate paintings. Center: Education Director Aretha Whitehead with her children Amelie, 8, and Katya, 4. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Another organization at the event was Greenagers, with Education Director Aretha Whitehead leading children in creating Mexican amate paintings.
 “I work in the school districts, so I am seeing a lot of the children that I work with at the festival,” Whitehead said. “It’s important to stay connected to the community, including the Latin American, Hispanic, and immigrant communities.”

Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Velez said that volunteers for the organization spent hundreds of hours putting the festival together. “But we are also creating other educational events throughout the year,” she said. “The educational component is important because, as the Latin American community has grown in the Berkshires, there is more representation. But a lot of people don’t know about where we all came from or the diversity within the communities that we have. There’s a lot of different layers and aspects to what we do.”

For more information about The Festival Latino of the Berkshires organization, go to its website.