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

Recently, on a Saturday evening at the Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato, the Portuguese singer Carminho performed her second Fado, the so-called About Começo (Beginning). She is accompanied by a quartet of bass, electric and acoustic guitars and the emblematic instrument of fado, the Portuguese guitar with 12 steel strings. Fado songs are deeply melancholic, the lyrics are full of ‘saudade’, a sense of nostalgia and longing.

It is the first time that Carminho has performed at the Cervantino International Festival and the audience is enthralled. Backstage after the show, he says the streets of Guanajuato have a lot of energy, like an erupting volcano. “And when I came on stage, I got the same intensity from the audience. It was great, great, 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 to enjoy theatre, dance, music, films, literature, gastronomy, street theatre, circus and so on,” says the festival director. Mariana Aymerichová. “They can come with the whole family, enjoy 19 days of feeling, dancing and reflecting with all the artists who are here with us.”

There are 25 locations spread throughout the city of Guanajuato, most of which are located in the historic center. Indoor spaces include theaters, baroque churches, a mine and a club in the catacombs beneath the city. Half of the events are free. But one of the best parts of the festival is the outdoor spaces: five city squares, a former train station and a supermarket all bring the city to life every day.

At the festival’s largest outdoor venue, Coreyah, a psychedelic Korean folk band performs to over 4,000 people. The band is a mixture of traditional Korean music, American rock and world rhythms.

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

One of the large performing groups invited by the festival did a flash mob in 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, created a piece from their large multidisciplinary show called Tururú, Los Jovenes También Viajan and Metro (Youngsters also travel by metro).

The director of the production is Taína González. The priority was to involve youth from working-class neighborhoods throughout Mexico City in the performance. “There are many things they could do and never imagined. For example, in the theater group I lead, many participants had no idea they were going to act,” he says. “They’ve been working on it for a year and it’s amazing to see how much they’ve grown and how comforting it is for them.”

For 50 years, the Cervantino Festival has been a cultural legacy that educates the public and all kinds of artists. 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 to what the festival has done, at least in Latin America, as a space for a wide range of aesthetic experiences, a place of learning and a space of freedom.”

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

/ Germán Romero, courtesy of the Cervantino International Festival

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Germán Romero, courtesy of the Cervantino International Festival

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

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