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Merida’s International Art Festival

Even though we are most definitely the Working Gringos, we still try to get out and see things around town once in awhile. Yes, it’s tempting to just sit in our little office that we call Chohol – which means "mouse hole" in Mayan – and peck away at our little keyboards. I’m sure you can see us now… nibbling on a little corner of cheese with a very tiny glass of white wine as we fret and worry over clients and code.

But even we cannot escape the lure of the Third International Arts Festival this year. Like anything else in life, the first of something is often not the best, but around the third time something like this happens, the results start to look really good. We plan to attend some of the Festival events this month, time and work permitting. (By the way, Merida is celebrating its 465th birthday this year, so you can only *imagine* how good this city has become!)

The Third Annual International Arts Festival has a beautiful website, featuring a charmingly mistaken English translation. The site brings us such translation gems as "members of the cuban agrupation" and "know the courses that will be free distributed through this festival", but it serves up a complete listing of activities by date, another program that lists the activities by category, and a catalogue of some of the visual art that is being exhibited. These files in PDF format (wrapped in ZIP files) are where the most useful information seems to be. You can download them from the Programs page.

The program started with a big event on January 5th, complete with calesa-riding trios singing Las Mañanitas to the city at midnight. Que romántico! (Unfortunately, we missed it because we were busy entertaining our visiting offspring on the Mayan Riviera.) All through the month of January, continuing activities will include Music, Theatre, Dance, Children’s Events, Traditional Events, Cinema, Instructional Courses and exhibits of Visual Arts. Events will be held in theatres, galleries, museums and parks all over town and even in some outlying pueblos, but most of the events will be in or walking distance from the Centro Historico.

Music offerings this month will include Trova, the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra, a quartet from Xalapa (where some of the best Mexican music comes from), the excellent Mariachi 2000, electronic music from a band with the curious name of Plastina Mosh, opera, a tango program and even a band called Phonk! from Canada. There will also be plays held all month and various dance programs, including a dance marathon where couples will compete in salsa, merengue, tango and other styles for the grand prize. The Gran Final of that competition would seem to us to be a must-see event, and it will be in the Plaza Grande starting at 5:00 pm on the 21st of January. Merida is big on dance so we would expect that some of the dance companies will be excellent, and since dance appreciation doesn’t require Spanish fluency, we may try to catch one or two performances ourselves.

The city will be awash with traditional events as well. Nights of music and dance will be held at all the parks in the Centro, as well as in some outlying locations. On Monday nights, the traditional vaquería, with jarana dancing, will be staged at 9:00 pm in the Plaza Grande. On some Mondays, the folkloric dancers will be demonstrating dances from other parts of Mexico as well.

Visual Arts will be celebrated with exhibitions at the Governor’s Palace, the galleries in the Olimpo (at the corner of Calle 62 and 61) and at the Galería del Pasaje on Calle 61 between Calles 60 and 62. Art, theatre, music and science workshops will be held for children in various pueblos, including Santa Cruz de Palomeque, Caucel and Dzityá. A film festival will be held around the city, showing films of Mexican star Arturo de Córdoba, born in Merida in 1907. He starred in films with such familiar names as Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman back in the day. The film festival will also highlight films from Cuba as well as films by Gabriel Figueroa, a famous Mexican cinematographer. Most of the films in the festival will indeed test your Spanish fluency as they are mostly Spanish-language films ( sin subtitulos as we say here). Other Spanish-language activities include readings of books and poetry and various courses and workshops.

The festival will close on the 30th of January with a concert by the world-famous Alejandra Guzmán in the zocalo.

If you cannot attend any of the events, check out the website’s Gallery section. Each day they are posting photos of the events that happened on that day. The photos from the opening gala are especially good!

As always, we welcome your comments and any reports about events that you have seen and enjoyed.

Here’s the website: The Third Annual International Festival of Arts in Merida

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3 Responses to “Merida’s International Art Festival”

  1. One of the things that makes Yucatan so special is her emphasis on cultural events. She is a master at preserving the past, while – at the same time – forging into the future. I wonder if the first is a requirement for success in the second? The cultural inclusion of all Yucatec cultures is probably the key to the development of an entire population with only the best interest of their state at heart. Yucatan knows who she is and her celebrations are spectacular evidence of that.

    Cholul? Be sure and go to the sidewalk “restaurant” on the corner of the plaza (across from the children’s playground) – at night – on weekends only. Just order a hamburger… that’s all you need… They are the best in the world! …and if you don’t believe it – watch the lines of cars pulling up to “take out” bags and bags and bags of hamburgers. It is amazing! :)

  2. woops… saw Cholol (in your article) and thought it was Cholul. Sorry… but still – take a look at Cholul. That town is a wonder in and of itself.

  3. Dears,
    where I can find more information about Your festival? When is next festival?
    Best Wishes
    Märt Meos
    General Manager
    Union R.A.A.A.M.


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