I am grateful to be in a city where culture does not go overlooked. As mentioned before, it seems there is always something to do in Sacramento, and this past weekend was no exception. Sunday September 29th was a fun, exciting day at the Sacramento Latin Music and Arts Festival in Southside Park. Now in it’s 4th year, the festival sponsors included KLGM Latino 97.9 radio station, d’Primero Mano magazine and Sacramento creative favorite Spanglish Arte, now at their new location with community-based arts education center Sol Collective.
Food from different countries included pupusas from El Salvador, platinos from Puerto Rico, paletas from México and pollo al la brasa from Perú. Many festival-goers also went across the street to support my iglesia favorita, Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, who offered tasty elote, agua fresca, tacos y tamal.
Though the art was beautiful and the food was tasty, I mainly attended the Festival to learn more about Colombia, the country I will soon call my home, volunteering for a year with WorldTeach. The performers from Colombia Viva, a folkloric dance troupe in Sacramento, began with a guabina, a traditional dance representing the values and feelings of peasants. Performed to a typical chant of the Colombian Andean region, the guabina costume features a skirt, veiled hat and cloth shoes.
The Colombian dancers also danced a vallenato, said by some to be the most popular music in Colombia. Vallenato, an accordion-heavy style of music, comes from the Caribbean coast, or more specifically, the town of Valledupar. It is rumored that Gabriel Garcia Marquez danced to vallenato when he celebrated winning his Nobel Prize for Literature. Modern vallenato is best-known from Colombian artist Carlos Vives, whose recordings went triple gold and triple platinum in 1993.
The performers delighted the crowd with the bullerengue, danced only by women, typically dressed in white, but for this performance, the dresses with large, netted skirts, were colorful and elaborate. The essence of the dance is a ritual that celebrates pregnancy, symbolizing female fertility; the name means pollerón or maternity skirt, where life is created.
In addition to a dance celebrating women and childbirth, the dancers shimmied and shouted in a celebratory dance for Carnaval. The announcer for the festival noted that in 2003 UNESCO honored the carnaval of Barranquilla, Colombia by declaring it a World Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, rivaling the famous carnaval of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Most popular among the carnaval dances are the cumbia, a fusion of Indian, Black and White elements that simulates a couple courting and is characterized by the elegance and subtle movements of the woman’s hips to the rhythm of a tambora (drum) and a flauta de millo (flute) and the garabato, which symbolizes the victory of life over death.
Also included in the performance was the traditional festivity of cumbiamba, where the male dancer feverishly pursues the female, only to be refused and led on, ending of course with her submission to his courting and expression of adoration.
This dance was especially fun, as the troupe invited audience members to dance with them: you could see the enthusiasm and appreciation of the culture come to life upon acceptance!
I was thrilled to meet the dance troupe and they were excited when I told them my news of moving to Colombia. I was especially touched when one of them said enthusiastically, “Thank you for going to Colombia to teach. It is going to be a wonderful experience for them [the students], and you are going to LOVE it!”
As I returned home to research more about Colombian dance, I was grateful not only for the festival in Sacramento and the expression of the beautiful Colombian dancers, but the opportunity that lies ahead in my future with WorldTeach. One of my favorite quotes came to mind: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” by Eleanor Roosevelt. Judging by the passion for dance, lively music and colorful costumes of Colombia dance, not only do I have the beauty of my dream, but I have a dream that includes beauty, and that in itself, is truly beautiful!