Note from Jeanne
What an incredible weekend we have had here. The XI Festival Internacional de Cultura Paiz 2011 began with a screaming start for us on Saturday night. We went to the Ermita de la Santa Cruz on the SE end of town, where an old church facade served as the backdrop for a large stage, which blended into an orchestra seating area, raised seating behind it, and bleachers, which ended about 100 yard from the stage. The theatre is open-air, so we were enshrined in stars, moon, and cool breezes that flowed through.
The concert opened with la orquestra sinfonica juvenil municipal (the youth orchestra of Guatemala City), which was spectacular. The group played beautifully, and even though it was open-air, each instrument was miked well, so the sound was terrific. After about three tunes, the players of Tiempo Libre came out and played some pieces with the orchestra. The combination was magical. After a short break, Tiempo Libre came back out and played for about an hour and the audience was encouraged to get up and dance, and of course, we were up with the rest, enjoyed the maddening music of this world-renowed group. It was spectacular.
Today we walked into town for a marimba concert at parque central. In this park there is a large fountain, surrounded by a series of sidewalks that lead to the fountain. At each of four intersections, four independent marimba groups had set up two very large, hand carved marimbas, a drum set, bongos, and string base. We found a seat near the fountain, and watched as the crowd developed, just outside the entry to the walkway where the marimbas were set up. Near us a group of viejas gathered, and were dressed in traditional Spanish dress, with colorful tiered, flared skirts, and matching peasant style blouses. When the music began, the ladies began dancing with each other. Eventually, more people joined in, and eventually, we got up the gringo guts to get up and dance to these waltzes, rhumbas, and one step dances. The interesting thing was to dance completely around the fountain, passing in front of each of the marimba groups, and noting their difference in uniform dress, suits with same color ties. All four groups played the same tune at the same time, and were held together, most of the time, with a prompt from an electronic source that had the beat and general starting point. As the time went by, the groups wavered in their togetherness, but it was still fun to dance. Afterward, we wandered to some new places on the square, had a light afternoon fare of a cool drink, cappucino, and pastel. In general, a great weekend.
We are still enjoying the markets, people, talking about and using Spanish more and more, and in general, relaxing. Tom has pictures of things from the weekend, so look for those here, or maybe my facebook page. Love to all jt