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Interview with Alberto Lenz and Monica Hoth: Festival de la Sierra

By Jade Arroyo

In an interview, Alberto Lenz, director of the Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramírez “El Nigromante” and Mónica Hoth, Academic Coordinator, talked about this first Festival de la Sierra, which will present music by the regional Northern Sierra of Guanajuato, its cultural objectives and main points.

Jade Arroyo: How did the idea for the festival arise and what is it about?

Alberto Lenz: First I would like to frame the project under an aim we have at Bellas Artes, which is the rescue of mexicanidad (Mexican culture and traditions). We want to get closer to the local and regional culture, which is very rich, to showcase this culture to the surrounding communities and young people. Under these guidelines we created the festival, which is aimed to evaluate and disseminate the musical traditions of the northern mountainous region of Guanajuato, not only the more traditional part, but also the contemporary part. We have a good mix of traditional music and a more elaborate combining of old and current art, bringing new realisations. We want to introduce this culture to Mexicans as well as the foreign and cosmopolitan community of San Miguel, but above all to present it to young people.

JA: Why is it important to rescue and celebrate this indigenous culture?

AL: More than a rescue, this is about the spreading of regional culture. Not only indigenous culture, but also the mestizo. This program goes from the primal to fusions and the contemporary.

JA: What is the importance of ancestral identity in global multiculturalism?

Mónica Hoth: The global culture tends to blend in — our richness is about our particular identity; that’s what we want to enhance. Any culture adds variety and in this case it is a difference in musical and gastronomic expression. These expressions identify us for what we are.

JA: The cultural landscape of San Miguel seems to be very crowded; every month there is a different festival. What are the differences between this festival and the others?

AL: The Festival de la Sierra is focused in local and regional culture, and it’s very versatile: it brings a spectrum of bands from the most traditional to the most modern, but all coming from the same roots: that is living culture. And this is a festival for both tourists and local population.

JA: Does the festival focus on music exclusively?

AL: This year, yes. We wanted to focus on music because due to the unfinished state of the building (Bellas Artes) we can’t hold other events. Once the building is ready, we will present exhibitions and other events. Everything is concentrated at the Jardín, so it will be public and free

JA: Can you talk a little about the program, the participating artists

MH: You must not miss anything, every performance is great. Juan Pablo Villa, who combines traditional music with plastic ingredients and multimedia art, making a complete show. Also the band Militantes de la Vida, led by the son of Guillermo Velasco (Leones de la Sierra) retaking the line of social criticism, but with reggae and ska rhythms. Jaime Huapanguero is the most traditional, he’s from the Sierra: He’s a farmer, builder and musician. The Alabanceros are a group of older people who create these songs of praise to the Creator, very nostalgic and traditional, sung in religious rites. Tembembe is an early music ensemble that blends New Spain with traditional Indian rhythms and contemporary music, creating an interesting fusion.

JA: Future plans?

AL: To make the festival grow and incorporate other expressions of the culture and to make it itinerant — the next one to be held at other municipalities of Guanajuato.


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