Dancers perform for the crowd during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
Luhin Palas of Portland carefully inserts Macaw feathers into his headdress while preparing to perform Aztec and Mayan dances during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
Luhin Palas of Portland carefully inserts Macaw feathers into his headdress while preparing to perform Aztec and Mayan dances during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Palas said the red feathers in the headdress were to represent the morning sun rising.

Dancers perform for the crowd during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
Luhin Palas of Portland carefully inserts Macaw feathers into his headdress while preparing to perform Aztec and Mayan dances during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.
Luhin Palas of Portland carefully inserts Macaw feathers into his headdress while preparing to perform Aztec and Mayan dances during the Latino Fest at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022. Palas said the red feathers in the headdress were to represent the morning sun rising.
The beating of drums, the twirling of colorfully dressed dancers, the comforting sound of the Spanish language, were all signs that the Latino Fest was back in action at Sahalee Park in Madras on Saturday.
The annual Latino Fest is Central Oregon’s premier Latin American heritage celebration, and although the festival was on a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it came roaring back this year, doubling its turnout from the last festival in 2019, said Brad Porterfield, the executive director of the Latino Community Association.
Porterfield, who lived in Uruguay in the 90s while serving in the Peace Corps, said while Central Oregon’s Latino community is predominantly from Mexico, he said there are smaller groups from countries like El Salvador, Peru and Guatemala in addition to several other countries in Latin America.
Carmen Bustamante of Redmond, who is originally from Jalisco, Mexico, was volunteering at the festival Saturday. She said she enjoys coming to Latino Fest and is thrilled that after two years with no event, the festival is more vibrant and crowded with families from Central Oregon’s diverse Latino community than ever before.
“It is very beautiful. We are celebrating the Latino community, all of us are enjoying it, and getting together, we are getting to know different cultures. It is really beautiful,” Bustamante said.
“We are learning about different cultures from different states, and different countries. It is very nice for everybody.”
Bustamante said she likes to see all the children and the people out and about enjoying the music, food and culture that pulses from all sides of the park.
The music and dancing means a lot to Bustamante because it is a way for the community to connect with and know its collective culture, and the diversity that culture presents.
Bustamante said there were dances and music from Mexico and Peru, as well as traditional dances from the Aztec culture among others.
Agustin Perez, of Madras is originally from Guerrero, Mexico and was standing near the pavilion at the park listening to traditional music and dance with his son and daughter. While it was his first time watching this particular dance, he said the music and dancing in general means a lot for his community.
“For every country and every culture, it is something special, all of this,” Perez said motioning towards the dancers. “Because every country, the people fought for this freedom. Every dance has its own meaning. For each culture it has its own special meaning.”
Zavier Borja, a Latino Community Association board member, said the Latino Festival is part of Welcoming Week, an initiative that the association brought to the City of Bend as a way to include and be more welcoming specifically for immigrants and refugees.
“To have that strength and community, to have that rapport, and be out there together and showcase that we are welcoming, and other agencies as well.”
The hope is that Welcoming Week, and the Latino Festival, will provide new immigrants and refugees in Central Oregon a chance to connect with their new community.
“If they don’t know where to go or they haven’t had a spot, then this would be a great place to do that. There’s this concept of strength in numbers,” he said. “Being able to have culturally relevant food, having people that look like you, that speak your language, your music, your culture, in an area that is not your home. To say this is your new spot and this is your new home and we want people to feel welcome and this in theory will do that, reinforce that and continue that.”
Borja said bringing something like the traditional dances of Latin America to Madras for the festival is a way of bringing the community’s culture to the park. The types of music and dancing featured at the festival are normal on the streets of Latin America, and bringing that to Madras continues to make it normal for the community, Borja said.
“Let’s bring and provide the space for what is normal for us and for this culture and make it normal,” Borja said.
Borja added the festival is also for people who are not part of the Latino community to come and learn about the culture and the traditions, ultimately bridging the gap between the the various communities in Central Oregon.
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Joe Siess is a GA reporter for the Bulletin. Joe previously reported for the Klamath Falls Herald and News and the Malheur Enterprise. He was born and raised in the Kansas City area, and holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri.
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