All About the International Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico
If you love the Spanish culture and its language and you haven’t heard about the Cervantino Festival you’re late to the party. This spectacular arts and culture festival taking place in central Mexico every year is one of the biggest of its class in the world and the most important in the Spanish-speaking world.
Keep reading to learn what’s the Cervantino Festival, its history and origins, who makes it possible, and a little personal and nostalgic account of my own experience with it. I’m also discussing with you why this festival is so important culturally speaking, when and where it takes place (including a list of venues), and a few interesting facts about it.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
What Is the Cervantino Festival?
The International Cervantino Festival is the main cultural festival in the Spanish-speaking world and one of the top four artistic celebrations in the world. It takes place every year in the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato, which is located in central Mexico.
El Cervantino, as it’s commonly known, is a colorful and multicultural celebration of the scenic arts, cultural expressions, and the Spanish language in general. Its name makes reference to the biggest Spanish writer of all time: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, author of Don Quijote.
History and Origins
The Cervantino Festival owes its existence to the inspiration and hard work of a committed professor at the University of Guanajuato: Enrique Ruelas. He started in 1953 a little annual event at his university that would perform representations of some obscure and forgotten short plays written by Cervantes. The event was called Entremeses de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
By 1972, Professor Ruelas expanded the event to include other types of scenic arts and changed the name of the event to Coloquio Cervantino. It was also this year, when the Mexican Government got involved in its organization, started funding and promoting the event, and international artists began going to Mexico to participate in this new international festival.
Not even in Mr. Ruelas’ wildest dreams that small university event would ever become the cultural monster that El Cervantino is these days! However, the Entremeses keep taking place every year as a reminder of the original meaning of the festival and a yearly thank you note to the university professor that made all this possible.
Who Makes the Cervantino Festival possible?
Nowadays that the Cervantino Festival has become such a cultural and tourist attraction it enjoys the strong support of the federal government through Mexico’s National Council for Arts and Culture and Mexico’s Ministry of Education. It’s also funded by the government of the state of Guanajuato, the city of Guanajuato, the University of Guanajuato, and quite a few private sponsors such as Mexico’s media giant Televisa, and Yamaha. Even global software giant Microsoft supported the festival at some point in the past!
No wonder that with such strong support and funding, the International Cervantino Festival has become the internationally acclaimed spectacular celebration of arts and Spanish culture that it’s today.
I want to share my personal experience of the Cervantino Festival with you, to give you a different image of what you will find anywhere else. I hope you find it interesting and useful.
I’ve visited El Cervantino a couple of times, once when I was still in high school, and the second time during my university years. That tells you something about the kind of event it is. It’s a festival of arts, designed with young people in mind. Every teenager and university student in Mexico wants to go at least once to the most exciting of festivals.
Both times I was there, I met interesting people, made friends from all over the country and a few from other nations; didn’t sleep at night at all, and discovered a lot of things about scenic arts and my own culture.
I remember, for example, being there sitting on a sidewalk and suddenly seeing a guy in a suit arriving from nowhere. He opened his instrument box, took out his cello, and started playing classical music right there in the middle of a public square. It was such a spontaneous and truly artistic experience and I was deeply touched by it. So much that, 25 years later, I’m here writing about it.
The International Cervantino Festival covers so much these days that it’s hard to keep up. It has evolved from a local theater event to a national celebration of the Spanish culture and language, to a global festival of arts that celebrates diversity and all kinds of cultural expressions.
Every year, the Cervantino Festival has a guest country and several events are organized to celebrate the culture of this invited nation. Some of the past guest countries that have participated in the festival include Canada, India, Argentina, France, Poland, and Spain, among many others.
During two weeks every year, the city of Guanajuato transforms itself into a non-stop cultural party, with artistic events of all types taking place simultaneously at different venues, formal and informal, inside theaters, museums, and concert halls, and outside on public squares, through the streets of Guanajuato, or in parks and stadiums. Nowadays, these events include a wide variety of genres and arts such as theater, visual arts, opera, classical music, electronic music, rock and pop performances, dance, circus performers, mime artists, film, literature, and more.
When and Where
The dates for the International Cervantino Festival vary from year to year, but the festival always takes place during the month of October in a series of different venues throughout the Mexican city of Guanajuato. It usually has a duration of two weeks, although the 2020 edition was a shorter version of only 5 days and took place virtually due to the Covid pandemic.
The 49th edition of the International Cervantino Festival Guanajuato 2021 will take place from 13 to 31 of October, and the guests of honor will be Cuba and the Mexican state of Coahuila. Initially, the organizers of the festival are planning to hold it both in person and virtually, but they’re prepared to repeat the virtual experience only if the pandemic continues by then.
Keep in mind that many events take place on the streets of Guanajuato, however among some of the main formal venues of the Cervantino Festival I can mention:
- Teatro Juárez
- Teatro Principal
- Patio de la Facultad de Relaciones Internacionales
- Teatro Cervantes
- Auditorio del Estado
- Plaza San Roque
- Explanada de la Alhóndiga de Granaditas
- Ex-Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera
- Templo de la Valenciana
- Teatro de Minas
Interesting Facts About El Cervantino
Let’s learn some cool facts about this globally famous arts festival:
- In 1988 UNESCO declared the city of Guanajuato as Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- Ray Charles, Rudolf Nureyev, and Cantinflas participated at some point in the festival.
- Every year the Cervantino Festival receives over 400,000 visitors.
- Every year over 2,000 artists perform at the Cervantino Festival.
- More than 34 countries have participated in the festival.
Learn Spanish and Visit El Cervantino
One of the most tangible benefits of learning Spanish is that your travels to Spanish-speaking countries become quite easier. Can you imagine immersing yourself in the Spanish culture at the Cervantino Festival in Mexico? To get the greatest benefit out of this experience, be sure to brush up on your Spanish conversational skills. This way you’ll be able to appreciate even more the amazing cultural value of this event and make new Spanish-speaking friends easily.
Sign up for a free class with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. At HSA we teach more than 24,000 actively enrolled students every month and have been providing reliable service to Spanish learners for more than 10 years.
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