Neither The Heat Nor The Pandemic Could With The Chamamé, A World Heritage Site –

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If they had told me that the one they call “our brunette from Itatí“, “our brunette chamamecera”, that the one they speak to with the sensuality of a tropical dance is the Virgin Mary, I wouldn’t have believed it. But that’s how it happens, that’s how it’s going to happen as soon as the Chamamé National Festival, in Corrientes. But it takes a while, first you have to get there.

From Aeroparque, in Buenos Aires, I say that I will not be in Corrientes until I see the first word in Guarani. But I see it quickly: from the van that picked us up at the airport, on a billboard. He says “heterei“. Google clears it up quickly: “too rich, delicious”. I take that as a good omen.

and it’s not bad a good omen: It can be suspected that this Friday of extreme heat is not the best day to inaugurate the Chamamé National Festival. Less if there are -as there were- almost 140,000 positive cases of coronavirus. But here we are, all set and anxious in the provincial capital and in the Mario del Tránsito Cocomarola amphitheater.

Joy.  The Public With And Without Protocols At The National Festival Of Chamamé, In Corrientes.  Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute Of Corrientes

Joy. The public with and without protocols at the National Festival of Chamamé, in Corrientes. Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute of Corrientes

All ready are the musicians and the dancers, but also the alcohol dispensers and the agents who They give away bottles of repellent and (more) alcohol. The anxiety is due to the celebration that has been contained: in December 2020, the chamamé was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. But there was a pandemic.

And although it was celebrated here the same – “we left from the four points of the city, we danced on the waterfront, I have videos,” says the driver when we go to the amphitheater – in January 2021 there was no Chamamé Festival and the great cry of champions remained in the throats.

A revenge with casualties: for the coronavirus Some artists had to cancel and the Minister of Culture, Tristán Bauer, cannot come due to close contact (he’s fine). A revenge with chinstraps and with capacity: The capacity of the amphitheater was reduced by half, 6,000 instead of 12,000. But this Friday the visitors will be about 3,500. Noticeable.

Youth And Typical Costumes.  At The Opening Of The National Festival Of Chamamé.  Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute Of Corrientes

Youth and typical costumes. At the opening of the National Festival of Chamamé. Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute of Corrientes

It shows and a lot of the claw to give it forward although, at the time of starting, those seats where people used to huddle together are rather empty. Likewise, the voice of the announcer Myriam Fleitas rises and calls: “31st the National Festival of Chamamé, 17th of Mercosur,” she announces, almost in a scream. Y… “First of Humanity”. Applause, smiles. A little excitement, sure.

People here say that although the thermometer does not drop below 30, there is a breeze. So all good with gaucho clothes that some wear Fleitas makes the first call of the night to this relaxed “chamamecera virgin” and prepares her entrance, that of the Virgin.

It doesn’t come alone. He brings her, on horseback almost to the stage, Alfredo Ellero, a 77-year-old man who spent 25 carrying the image along the country’s roads. “Pilgrim Virgin!”, they shout from the stage: Then, surrounded by cameras and greetings, like a rock star, Ellero gets down from his serious horse, with the Virgin in his arms, and here the figure remains, next to the speaker, ready for the ten days of chamamé corrido.

By Horse.  Alfredo Ellero Arrives With The Virgin Of Itatí At The National Festival Of Chamamé, In Corrientes.  Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute Of Corrientes

By horse. Alfredo Ellero arrives with the Virgin of Itatí at the National Festival of Chamamé, in Corrientes. Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute of Corrientes

Soldiers also went up with the Virgin, with a blue and white flag stamped with the silhouette of the Malvinas Islands. “It is 40 years since his deed”, the announcer, Gustavo Altamirano, will remember. It will not be missing -in a while, from the voice of one of the musicians- a “long live the homeland, damn it”.

Tribute To Julian Zini.  On Stage They Sang For The &Quot;Chamamecero Priest&Quot;.  Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute Of Corrientes

Tribute to Julian Zini. On stage they sang for the “chamamecero priest”. Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute of Corrientes

“You feel the blessing in the air,” Fleitas preaches. “Here we beg for health, for work. Thank you, Chamamecera Virgin!”

The pai Zini, in the hearts

So upstairs are the Virgin, the soldiers, the gauchos, the countrywomen and what comes, of course, is the priest’s blessing. That this year has its own thing: for years it was made by Julián Zini, Pai Julián, also a composer and singer. But Zini died in 2020. The post was taken two young priests, Ariel Giménez and Antonio Rosi,

“Julián Zini, we keep you in our hearts”, they will say and like a chill will run through the place. The priests will give their blessing in a Castilian watered with Guarani and will talk about a “Artist God” and, with beautiful music behind it and dancers letting go, of “this that we are, chamamé“.

Pride, with LL

It is that the Chamame Festival, as you can see, is music and more than music. It is a meeting place -families with the little refrigerator full of cold drinks; the ladies dressed in Sunday clothes, the young man in a beret hugging a girl- and also of affirmation. Many times you will hear that “pride” through the speaker, with that double l pronounced as with water, “pride”.

Meanwhile, the first couples were already encouraged to go up to the dance stage, which is next to the main one and for which no requirements: who wants, dance. There are them with typical costumes, with the Virgin stamped on the back, there are them in jeans. There are with and without chinstraps. Little ones, old

Dance.  Couples On Stage At The National Festival Of Chamamé.  Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute Of Corrientes

Dance. Couples on stage at the National Festival of Chamamé. Photo Zulma Ruiz Cuevas/Culture Institute of Corrientes

When the act ends and the concert starts, the Grupo de Buena Fe rises -in tune with the religious climate-, which returns to invoke Heaven, now singing. But with the pride of Corrientes, which is a key to the chamamé: “Our father, do not allow us to flatter the powerful“, they sing.

From the stage, the announcers insist: “In these 20 months the peñas, the festivals, have been silent, but the pandemic could not silence the chamamé“. The public listens calmly; perhaps because of the heat, perhaps because of the infections, because of the beating what has been this time, on the first night more than madness the climate is sweetie. The night, the music, the intense moon, being alive.

And the announcer who invoked God makes a parenthesis to look at science: “Please, get vaccinatedThis is also for our brothers, for our neighbor”.

in a tent Gabriel Romero, the president of the Institute of Culture of Corrientes, continues the Fiesta calmly. He was one of the promoters of the UNESCO declaration and now he talks about other plans, to value the crafts of Iberá, the Jesuit heritage of his province, from Guarani that “when we were kids they didn’t let us talk”.

Outside there are hamburger stalls and others that bring back old regional foods. the sign says “chipa guazu” and also “Mbaipy” and “Mbejú”, as well as fried cassava and other delicacies. It is attended by ladies who cook at home: it is a program of INTA and the government of Corrientes that began four years ago.

It is about looking for resources but also about seeing that what is inherited, what the grandmother taught, is not second-class. “Do not let a tourist go and give him a hamburger”, says Estefanía Cutro, a technician of the program. and offers “mbejú”, an antecedent of the chipá: starch, cheese and milk. “Narda came to Iberá and incorporated it,” he winks. But throw away the data: “Iberá is the poorest area of a very poor province“.

Outside the music continues. Coquimarola has already played -the son of Mario del Tránsito who gives his name to the amphitheater-, Silvina Escalante has already played. Some song by Ramón Ayala has already been played. we already sing to the river, to love, to work, those who leave the interior to study. We are entering, with the care of the case, the chamamé.

It’s good that they recognized him in Paris, but the truth is that around here it was already known what the announcer shouts: “The chamamé is more alive than ever and is a prophet in his land.” So, as she says, “Chamamé, cheers, you’re already universal.”

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