Festival Cervantino, Latin America’s biggest cultural event, returns with new energy

On a recent Saturday night at the Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato, the Portuguese singer Carminho performs her second Fado called. O Começo (The beginning). She is accompanied by a quartet of bass, electric and acoustic guitars and the emblematic instrument of fado, the 12-string Portuguese guitar. Fado songs are deeply melancholic, the lyrics are filled with ‘saudade’, a sense of nostalgia and longing.

This is Carminho’s first time performing at the Cervantino International Festival and the audience is enthralled. Backstage, after the show, she says the streets of Guanajuato have a lot of energy, like an erupting volcano. “And when I got on stage, I received the same intensity from the audience. It was wonderful, wonderful, unforgettable!” she says.

This year is special. After a virtual edition in 2020, and a hybrid version last year – the festival is back in person and celebrating 50 years. “It is a festival where people can come and enjoy theatre, dance, music, films, literature, gastronomy, street theatre, circus, etc.,” says festival director Mariana Aymerich. “They can come with the whole family, to enjoy 19 days of feeling, dancing, and reflecting with all the artists who are here with us.”

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There are 25 venues spread across the city of Guanajuato, most of which are located in the historic center. The indoor venues include theatres, baroque churches, a mine and a club in the catacombs, under the city. Half of the events are free. But one of the best components of the festival is the outdoor venues: five city squares, a former train station and a supermarket bring the city to life every day.

At the festival’s largest outdoor venue, Coreyah, a psychedelic Korean folk band performs in front of more than 4,000 people. The group is a mix of traditional Korean music, American rock and world rhythms.

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Every year festival organizers invite a country and a state of Mexico. Korea is the invited country this year. In collaboration with the Korean Embassy, ​​the festival programmers invited 10 different groups, including the K-Pop group KARD; Sumi Jo, a famous opera singer; and the Korean National Contemporary Dance Company.

One of the large performing groups invited by the festival did a lightning move at the Plaza del Baratillo, a picturesque square in the heart of the city. More than 40 performers, including an opera singer and a small orchestra, were recreating a piece from their large multi-disciplinary show Tururú, Los Jovenes También Viajan and Metro (The Youth also travel on the metro).

Taína González is the director of the production. She made it a priority to include young people from working-class neighborhoods across Mexico City in the performance. “There are many things they could do and never thought. For example, in the theater group I lead, many of the participants had no idea they were going to do a play,” she says. “They’ve been working on it for a year and it’s great to see how much they’ve grown and how reassuring it is for them.”

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For 50 years, the Cervantino Festival has been a cultural reference cherishing the public and every kind of artist. Angela Gonzalez, director of the Ruelas Foundation, says the festival brought all the great artists from around the world to Mexico. “There is no comparison that the festival has achieved, at least in Latin America, as a space for a wide range of aesthetic experiences, a place of learning and a space of freedom.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Orquesta Típica de la CDMX, performing at Templo de la Compañía, Guanajuato, Mexico.

/ Germán Romero, courtesy of Cervantino International Festival

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Germán Romero, courtesy of Cervantino International Festival

Orquesta Típica de la CDMX, performing at Templo de la Compañía, Guanajuato, Mexico.



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