Penguins, mariachi music, dancing, and ceramic skulls might not seem to have much in common, except at Folklorama. In Week One of this year’s cultural festival, visitors had the chance to explore the Spanish-speaking parts of the Americas from top to bottom with the pavilions of Mexico and Chile.
Wherever people go during the annual two-week cultural festival, Folklorama, they are likely to find interesting stories about people and what they consider important. That was the case at the Mexican and Chilean Pavilions in Week One of the festival.
To outsiders, many of the features of Mexican and Chilean culture might seem similar, with some of the same kinds of dances and lively music. However, not everything was the same, just as the countries themselves are different.
Throughout the performance at the Mexican Pavilion, a mariachi band was a prominent feature. Audience members could listen to the band throughout the show and then learn more about the trumpets and other instruments through the cultural display, which included information about the band, Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan, and about the music itself.
Besides mariachi music, the cultural display featured information about the drink for which Mexico is often identified, tequila, with a description of the whole process of making the alcoholic beverage.
Ceramic skulls were a prominent feature of another section of the pavilion, showing an aspect of Mexican culture that some North Americans might find somewhat startling. Using the skull in art is part of a Mexican tradition going back hundreds of years to the time of the Aztecs, and it continues today in the crafts available for sale in fair trade stores and other shops in Canada.
While the Chilean pavilion had nothing quite like painted skulls, it had some of its own unique emphases in a display on penguins. It is easy to forget that the southern tip of Chile borders on Antarctica, and with a portion of the icy continent officially claimed by Chile, penguins are part of its heritage.
Dancing was a main feature of both pavilions. Ballet Folklorico El Mazatleco del CETIS performed at the Mexican venue with vivacious movement and bright costumes, while a greater variety of groups representing a wider age range participated at the Chilean pavilion, from small children to adults. Whatever their ages, the dancers all seemed to enjoy the experience as they jumped, twirled, and stepped across the stage.
Both the Chilean and Mexican pavilions took place in large spaces, the former at the Notre Dame Recreational Centre in St. Boniface and the latter at the RBC Convention Centre. While the size of the room sometimes meant that it could be difficult for audience members to see or hear the action, it also made the space much cooler and less stuffy than at some of the other venues.
For audience members already tired from seeing other performances, the extra comfort was welcome. Food was also a popular feature at both pavilions, with everything from empanadas at the Chilean venue and other traditional fare at the Mexican pavilion.
Although Mexico and Chile have much in common, including the Spanish language and many similarities in music and culture, the two venues were different enough to provide an interesting contrast. Anyone who visited these pavilions during the first week of Folklorama could come away with a better understanding of the extreme north and south of Latin America.