Monica Hoth: mother, artist, arts promoter and academic coordinator
By Sandra Rios
Mónica Hoth, who has lived in San Miguel for 16 years, has won several literary awards and is a playwright, producer, puppeteer, teacher, art lover and now academic coordinator of Bellas Artes. She shared her experiences with Atención.
Sandra Ríos: When did you come to live in San Miguel de Allende?
Monica Hoth: I came in 1998 or 1999, with a two-year-old son and a brittle relationship, with the idea that if we changed the atmosphere a little we would do better. San Miguel was in a buoyant moment, and the day after our arrival we got a house. Soon the father of my son was showing at Bellas Artes with Doña Carmen Massip. She loved my puppets, and a few months later, I got a job as a teacher of puppetry in Bellas Artes. San Miguel received me with open arms, adopted me.… After a while I broke up with my partner, and I decided to stay. My puppet workshop lasted ten years. Then I had to go away for several months to stage a show in Mexico City.
SR: When was the first edition of the Festival of Puppets?
MH: It was in 2001 and was an initiative of Rubén Pérez, director of the Hoteliers Association, who was always a fervent admirer of theater and puppets. When he learned there was a puppet workshop at Bellas Artes, he suggested a festival to be a tourist attraction during Easter week. I was commissioned to do the selection, and it was conducted at the Auditorium Miguel Malo. The next year nobody did anything, not even Bellas Artes or the Hoteliers Association, and the Festival was really theirs. A year later I took it over and made it my own festival because I am a puppeteer and I was interested in it. I got support from the Tourism Department, but the festival did not grow. We had only about 100 spectators per show. For the fourth edition, we went out to the streets with the purpose of making culture available to all. Everyone must have free access to culture, since we already pay for culture with our taxes. When I received public money to do these festivals and went out to the streets, we attracted about 4,000 spectators, and it took off. I became enthusiastic and continued organizing the puppet festival for several years, holding performances in the streets. After six or seven years, we noticed that some pieces would look better in a theater than on the street, and we performed at Ángela Peralta, Bellas Artes and La Biblioteca. Last year almost all the events were held at Teatro Ángela Peralta and sold out. This year, if we get support from CONACULTA, we will have our eleventh puppet festival between July 14 and 20, and entrance will be free because it is public money and must benefit the entire community.
SR: You are a playwright also, and you’ve won some prizes. Tell us about it.
MH: In 2003 my piece “Martina y los hombres pájaro” (Martina and the Birdmen)
disregard won the INBA National Literature Prize, the most important literature prize in Mexico. It was published in 2005 and since then it has been staged more than 50 times. From the Instituto Estatal de Cultura I received two awards, one in 2005, for a story called “Nicolás o los tiempos pasados no siempre fueron mejores” and in 2010, I won another award for dramaturgy for a piece about the monarch butterflies. I also got third place in a nationwide dramaturgy contest from the Museo de Cultura Popular in 2011; the theme was alebrijes (colorful Mexican crafts representing fantastic animals). I like to compete because when I win, I receive a little money. This is the first time in my life that I have had a job like this one at Bellas Artes. I’ve been freelance all my life.
SR: What do you like and not like about San Miguel?
MH: San Miguel has been very generous to me; I had pretty solid training, but here it was cemented. I really like that there are civil cultural initiatives, like the project of La Camara or the Baroque Music Festival. I don’t like that San Miguel is like a cruise ship where you have to keep tourists entertained. It is a concept of culture that is not rooted. I resent the “glamor” of that false culture of cruising…. I think governments should give more to the creators in the region and provide them the resources to produce. Now they bring artists from outside, who get paid a fortune.
SR: What are the current projects at Bellas Artes?
MH: We are in talks with FONCA to provide training for local artists, starting with dance, photography and narrative. During the summer we will have encaustic workshops, drawing, painting, photography and art therapy. In July, we will hold a workshop with followers of Grotowski, who was a great theater teacher.
SR: Tell us about your personal projects.
MH: Now I’m writing a play called Minga, which is almost finished. I also have another project with a dance company, and I will participate in the post-drama. We have just registered this project with FONCA (Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes), and if we are given support, the company’s residence will be in San Miguel, and we will give four or five performances.