Tell us about the reasons for the Mexican Cultural Week “Presence of Oaxaca in Romania”.
The Mexican Cultural Week, Presence of Oaxaca in Romania is the most important festival that Mexico has ever presented in Romania.
The Embassy of Mexico, with the support of the Governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Culture and well-known Romanian cultural institutions, has organized a rich and diverse series of simultaneous activities that will take place from the 22nd to the 29th of October.
Twenty artists came especially from Oaxaca to Romania. A wide array of artistic manifestations will create a melting pot of colors, textures, sounds and flavors. Folk music and dances, a visual arts exhibition, a traditional Day of the Dead altar laden with offerings and a mezcal tasting will take place at the National Village Museum “Dimitrie Gusti”, the National Peasant Museum and the National Center of Arts Tinerimea Romana in Bucharest as well as the Reduta Cultural Center in Brasov.
I believe cultural festivals bring people together. We want to portray Mexico’s cultural richness and diversity to the Romanian people. They promote the work of local artists and popular culture and lead to the formation of new audiences, which in turn promotes mutual knowledge and increases understanding.
Mexican and Romanian cultures are very similar. We share a common Latin origin. We want the Romanian public to understand us better and to enjoy the similarities that unite us. We also want people to experience first-hand the traditions, color and beauty of the work of Mexican artists from Oaxaca. Because Oaxaca is a unique region with very deep native roots (Mixtec and Zapotec) which are still flourishing today. Oaxaca is deep Mexico.
Would you care to expand on the various performances that will take place?
Oaxaca will offer itself to Romania through the Guelaguetza, which is a zapotec word for offering or gift, it is the main annual festivity of the state of Oaxaca and one of the most important folk celebrations in Mexico. The main feature of this grand fiesta is the performance of traditional dances from the eight different regions of the state, complemented by exhibitions of traditional costume, food and sweets.
We bring this fiesta to the Romanian people, along with other dances from various regions in Mexico, through the performance: México, sus danzas, música y tradición (Mexico, its dances, music and traditions). Seventeen dancers and musicians, members of the Yuhua cultural organization directed by maestro Gabriel Díaz Ramírez, will perform in Romania from their hometown of Ocotlán de Morelos.
This wonderful expression of dance and music is complemented by the exquisite voice of the young singer Yaneth Venegas. With her show “Encanto de mi México” (“A spell of my Mexico”) she will delight the Romanian audience with traditional songs from Oaxacan composers both in Spanish and Zapotec.
Yaneth Venegas is gifted with an exceptional voice. She has the ability to transmit the feeling of traditional Oaxacan music. Her talent has been recognized with several awards in Mexico.
Tell us about the painting exhibition you will inaugurate at the Village Museum.
Visual arts play a vital role in Oaxacan life. I will inaugurate on October 22nd an exhibition at the National Village Museum which will bring you a sample of it. It will display the graphic works of 15 talented artists who are a part of the artistic school founded by the world-renown Oaxacan painter, Rufino Tamayo. It will remain open until November 2nd.
No estaban muertos, andaban de parranda (They weren’t dead, they were just partying around) is an exhibition that includes etchings, aquatinct, mixed media and woodcuts, its name evokes the Mexican festivity of Día de Muertos, which is a religious celebration throughout the country every November 2nd.
Many civilizations honor their dead with different rites, could you explain the unique features of the Mexican festivity of Día de Muertos ?
– Indeed, almost all cultures around the world have rites and rituals surrounding the phenomenon of death. Yet, only in Mexico we make edible skulls out of chocolate, sugar or amaranth. The skull is turned into a sweet reminder of the fact that life is ephemeral and that we all carry a skeleton inside our bodies.
Día de Muertos is one of the most important rituals of the year, and its most concrete expression is the Altar to the Death, product of the religious syncretism between Catholicism and pagan rites which persisted through evangelization and is part of our worldview.
It is based on the belief that once a year the spirit of the dead person returns from the other world to be with its family and spiritually enjoys its favorite dishes.
A cross, illuminated by the light of the candles which guide the soul of the dead one to its altar. Copal and incense are used to purify the environment and sanctify the place, while the yellow cempazúchitl or Mexican marigold flowers.
On the table, a glass of water deters evil spirits and awaits to quench the thirst of the spirit after the long journey. On the table is a mélange of the person’s favorite products. For example, clay pots filled with rice and beans, chocolate, the traditional sugared bread and a pack of cigarettes. If the deceased liked to drink, alcoholic beverages are offered as well: beer or a glass of mezcal.
You mentioned mezcal tasting, how is mezcal different from tequila?
Mezcal is a traditional alcoholic beverage distilled in Oaxaca from the agave plant. Like tequila, mezcal is distilled from a specific kind of agave in a much smaller region. Tequila has a designation of origin, like champagne or cognac, and it is named after the town of Tequila, Jalisco. Nevertheless, the traditional process involved and the varieties of species from which it is made gives mezcal a different flavor, more smoky.
It has always been the preferred alcoholic beverage of large communities from different states of Mexico. The rediscovering of its quality and uniqueness has made mezcal a trendy drink in high-end bars and restaurants in the cities, in Mexico and elsewhere. In Bucharest you may enjoy mezcal at Le Bistro Francais.
Within the frame of some events, we will have the pleasure of offering a special handcrafted mezcal. The expert Ulises Torrentera Gómez will explain explain better than us the production process and teach us how to enjoy the various aspects of this drink.
Could you tell us where we can find more information regarding the festival?
It is a very rich festival and we are certain that it will be a complete success. We would be very happy to see you at the different venues in which it will take place. For more information, please check the whole page program or consult the Embassy’s web page: http://embamex.sre.gob.mx/rumania
Furthermore, there will be the film festival Buñuel in Mexico, on October 21 to 25, dedicated to the legendary Spanish director who worked and lived in Mexico, at the Cervantes Institute. Yesterday, we opened it with the film Nazarin, on of the best movies directed by Buñuel.