Long Island Traditions
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Berta Gauto and Panambi Verá: Paraguayan dance group
Berta Gauto & Panambi Verá: Paraguayan Dance Group

Berta Gauto is originally from Asunción, Paraguay though her parents hail from Villarrica, a region known as the "cradle of poets and musicians" because of the unusually high number of artists in the area. Part of an artistic family, her relatives include uncle Diosnel Chase, a well-known traditional singer and songwriter, as well as a grandfather who played polkas, guaranias and chamamé music on the accordion. Berta, however, was always most interested in dance and learned at a young age to perform traditional polkas, including La Galopera, a famous dance wherein women balance bottles and water jars on their heads in a demonstration of grace and balance. She danced for several years with a folkloric dance company known as Raína Potí.

Berta moved to Mineola eight years ago, where the Paraguayan community numbers around 2000. Soon thereafter she formed the dance group Panambi Verá, which means 'Golden Butterfly' in the Guaraní language spoken by many Paraguayans. She saw their dancing as a good way of introducing the American public to Paraguayan culture while at the same time educating the community’s children about their heritage. Today fifteen to twenty Paraguayan teenagers, including Gauto’s two daughters, perform with the group which also includes a musical duo playing Andean harp and guitar. Berta sews most of the beautiful costumes herself, though she imports the delicate tela de araña (spider web) lacework from Paraguay. Panambi Verá maintains an active performance schedule, including regular appearances at festivals like Manhattan’s Hispanic Heritage parade on Fifth Avenue and annual visits to Boston; they have also performed at the United Nations and even for the president of Paraguay upon his visit to New York in 2000.