CERVANTINO: Mexico’s Premier Festival of the Arts
By Loretta Scott Miller
Once a year, the entire city of Guanajuato transforms itself into a performing arts center called Festival Internacional Cervantino. The premier arts festival in all of Latin America, it features top conductors, orchestras, ballet dancers, singers and actors from around the world. Performers will be coming from Thailand, India, Japan, Iran, Moscow, Spain, Portugal, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and of course Mexico.
Now an international event, Cervantino is rooted in a performance tradition that goes back to 1954 when the University of Guanajuato first produced the entremeses or farcical works of Spain’s most famous writer, Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), known to present day theatergoers through The Man of La Mancha.
Although entremeses are still performed in plazas around the city and minstrels in 16th-century garb still roam the city’s narrow, winding streets singing and playing for free, most of the festival performances have nothing to do with Cervantes or his Man of La Mancha. Nevertheless, Cervantes and his immortal characters, Don Quijote and Sancho Panza have come to symbolize Guanajuato. Larger-than-life-size bronze sculptures of the two occupy a plaza next to the Cervantes Theater at the south entrance to the city. A few blocks away is the Museo Iconografrico del Quijote housing an impressive collection of sculptures, carvings, ceramics and paintings of Sancho Panza and Don Quijote. It includes works by Dali and Picasso and several splendid Lladro porcelains of the pair.
Anyone who has ever tried to attend the festival knows that finding a hotel room is next to impossible. Wholesalers and consolidators tie up blocks of hotel rooms as soon as the festival dates are announced. But, there are a few alternatives: the most practical option is to look for a package tour through a travel agent. At least one Lakeside agency always has a festival package at a reasonable price.
Another option is to show up for the festival and hope for the best, for there are always last-minute cancellations at the hotels and locals willing to rent a spare room. As a last resort, you can stay in nearby Silao or a bit further away in San Miguel de Allende. Some events are free, while tickets for headliners sell quickly and can be costly. These can be purchased in advance through Ticket Master in Mexico City (915-325-9000). For detailed festival information, contact a travel agent.