Guanajuato 2009 Festival Internacional Cerventino CLETA

It was a last minute decision to go to Guanajuato for the Festival Internacional Cervantino. Alberto and Lea stopped by my place to pick up some music and invited me to come with their teatro group: CHUSMA. It was three weeks away, I needed to get my passport updated, find a flight and hopefully a place to stay. Alberto had said we would all be sleeping on the floor of a communal house where all the teatros stay at. That didn't sound enticing to me. I like a bed when I travel to nice cities.

I heard it was a "Mexican Burning Man." The website made it look very bourgie. Others said it was cool. When I doubted going a dear friend just said "You have everything you need to go, friends, a place to stay, a festival to see, a city you haven't seen in a long time, a little bit of time to go, so what is stopping you?" So I went.

I got to Leon at 6:15 am local time on the 15th, the second day of this 36 year old festival. I met Lea at Vips, at 8:15 after being a little lost and waiting around for nearly an hour. The last time I was in GTO I also arrived in the morn and waited around for hours for a woman. That was 14 years ago.

The Festival Internacional Cervantino (FIC) began in 1972. The Festival Internacional Cervantino of CLETA (FICC) began in 1975. FIC is sponsored by the Mexican government and features world renown artists with ticket prices starting at $30 (US) and up to $100+. The FICC is about providing an option to the "elitism" of the FIC and features artists from all over the world who perform in the various plazas, alleys, shopping malls, tourist spots, and street corners throughout the 3 week festival. Chusma was there for the CLETA and it was dope.

Funded in part by the European Union, the CLETA had a base camp at the Jardin San Pedro. We ended up finding a room a block and half away. We had a short walk to get to meetings, workshops, have rehearsals, meals, and entertainment every night from 8-midnight.

Chusma was scheduled to perform Friday at La Plaza de Los Angeles (how appropriate), Saturday at Plaza Pozuelos (an indoor mall) and Sunday at the Jardin San Pedro the base camp where a lot of the CLETA participants came to at night to see teatro, dance, bands, singers and performance art.

The first day (Thursday) Lea, Alberto and Eddie were there, so we took off to San Miguel de Allende (SMA) since it was the only day they didn't have rehearsal or a performance. SMA has been in a couple of Robert Rodriguez films and is known as an international artist colony. It is very beautiful. You can see the horizon in SMA versus the hillsides of the bowl where GTO sits. We came back that night and were tired, so we just kicked it at the Jardin chatting it up with beers for $1!!!

In the morning DJ Papalotl aka Diana, Gustavo, Goretti & Sander arrived. Goretti & Sander had their own place around the corner from ours. We were six in a room at the Canta Ranas Hotel. The place was clean but the owner was more of mother superior, telling us how loud we were and to keep it down. What did she expect from a teatro group filled with fun, loud people?

The teatro was complete now and they had a performance at Plaza Los Angeles at 6pm. They would have rehearsal at the Jardin while Eddie and I ran around town taking it all in and making flyers announcing all the upcoming shows from the Chicano Teatro from Los Angeles, Califaztlan. We met them later at the Jardin and helped move props and costumes to the Plaza.

Most mornings we would have breakfast at the Mercado Hidalgo. We would have fresh fruit and vegetable juices and then either tacos, cocktails or soups of various seafood, tortas, huevos con chorizo, chilaquiles or something else that was hearty and would get us through to lunch.

The first performance was delayed due to clown activities and setting up a makeshift dressing in strong winds. Either way the show was good. That night at the Jardin we saw a group of 30 dancers and musicians from Venezuela and dancers from Austria.

We walked around a lot watching the city fill with more and more people. By Friday night it was in full swing and the locals told us it was basically a young people's getaway. Everyone looked around 18-23 yrs. old. Their energy filled the air.

Saturday I got left behind and had to visit Diego Rivera's museum alone. It was cool. I also went to the underground mercado that was filled with razteca, rock, psycheldelic, goth and indigenous items. I got lost in the hills trying to find a short cut and ended up going around in circles. I noticed there were a lot of single women walking around alone, traveling alone. They all had the same look. Cautious, constantly moving, curious, and dressed to run. Didn't see or notice single men walking alone. I guess it may be a woman thing to travel alone?

The show on Saturday was inside a shopping mall. It was very typical and in a way off putting but we had a good time. They gave me a mask and Eddie a costume and we joined them on stage in the final acto.

That night we hit the town in costumes and masks in the spirit of Cervantino. We had a shot of Cazadores in the oldest bar in GTO El Incendio. When we walked in wearing masks everyone kind of stopped and tripped for a second, that was cool. Dinner this night was a little nicer than other nights and I got to order a Chile en nogada, a very special treat. We strolled around taking pics and having our pic taken. We ended up dancing in the main square, El Jardin de la Union, which is actually a triangle, to strolling bandas that played cumbias. I stayed up til 4:30 am smoking and drinking on our terrace sharing good laughs, stories, and giving thanks. The city hummed along, people singing in the streets, up until the sun came up and the church bells began to ring.

Sunday we got a late start but we bumped into a plaza with Pippo and the Pirates, a teatro from Switzerland. They were a riot. Overall most of the performers had at least one or two members who spoke Spanish, but others would just say their lines in their native language. After they were done, Enrique Cisneros, the founder of CLETA, spoke about the history of the Festival and how he had been arrested during the first one, but after international pressure on the Mexican government for arresting students who were simply doing art in the streets, the government decided to fund the festival. He gave a shout out to Chusma, "with their Chicano themes that speak to the core of the major issues of our day, immigration, economic decline of the US, and land." We tripped out!!! He recognized. He went on to say that Mexico with its upcoming celebrations of the the revolutions of 1810 and 1910 have nothing to celebrate, instead "we need to be prepared to be rebeldes once again, because what is happening cannot stand anymore." This man is just too cool.

That night's performance was amazing. I also got to speak on the history of Chusma and Chicano teatro in between a major costume change. I think I tripped the crowd out when I mentioned how they "...may view us as pochos or as Americanos, but we are viewed as illegal, gangsters, foreign and suspect in our own land, that is if and when we are considered."

After the show we just hung out and caught the rest of night's performances which included a Costa Rican band called Dub Experimental. They could have been from LA.

Overall it was a great time and I am planning on going next year. I hope to get more Chicano/as there to represent and connect.


Lea said...

You blog is beautiful, a perfect narration of the experience. Thank you so much for joining us, you particpation def. made the experience a richer one. Yes, looking forward to next year. I'd like to look into joining the caravans next time. Much Respect, Lea

chimatli said...

Awesome! Thanks for all the detailed descriptions especially of how folks there perceived you all. This is an aspect of traveling I often find interesting.
I've never been to GTO so I appreciate all the restaurant and hotel names. I think the festival is going on until Nov 1 so I hope to catch a bit of it.