Crazy for Cervantino

Guanajuato is loco for the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. Of course, Cervantes created Don Quixote of La Mancha, a fictional nobleman who read himself into madness, and spoke a language so literary that no one could understand him.

Quixote and Panza

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Plaza Allende, Guanajuato

Every October for the past 45 years, in Cervantes’ honor, this small colonial-era town has hosted the International Cervantino Festival, claimed to be the most important artistic and cultural event in Latin America. Since Cervantes is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language, the festival places special emphasis on artistic expressions in Spanish.

Cervantino Sign

International Cervantino Festival, October 11-29, 2017, Guanajuato

Like Don Quixote, the famous literary lunatic, the Cervantino festival includes a certifiably insane number of events. Instead of tilting at windmills; however, the festival carries on its noble duties for 19 days and “knights” to satisfy every person’s artistic interests. For nearly three weeks, there is a full calendar of music, dance, theater, opera, film, street spectaculars, and more.

Teatro Cervantes

Cervantes Theater, Guanajuato

Performances are held at dozens of theaters, plazas and other venues all around the city. Some of the events require a purchased ticket, but a great many performances are offered free of charge. I’m sure that Don Quixote would have found that quite chivalrous indeed.

Teatro Juarez exterior

Juarez Theater, Guanajuato

The crown jewel of Guanajuato’s performing arts venues is the 19th century Juarez Theater, one of the most magnificent and prestigious theaters in Mexico. The exterior of the theater exhibits an eclectic collection of neoclassical design elements, including a series of columns with brass capitals, and bronze statues of the muses standing along its parapet.

Teatro Juarez interior

Interior of the Juarez Theater, Guanajuato

Inside the Juarez Theater, four levels of box seating surround the horseshoe shaped auditorium. When I went inside to see the University of Guanajuato symphony orchestra I felt like I had stepped back in time. As with the timelessness of the classical music, the plush, oriental-inspired theater seemed unchanged from its heyday over a century ago.


France, Cervantino Country of Honor 2017

Each year the festival invites one of the Mexican states and one foreign country as its guests of honor. This year, these distinctions went to the state of Mexico and the country of France. On opening night, the French band Dionysos played a sold-out concert to inaugurate the festival.

Estado de Mexico

The State of Mexico, Cervantino State of Honor 2017

On the second night of the festival, I attended the ballet folklorico performed by the official troupe from the state of Mexico. The traditional music, energetic choreography, and vibrant costumes combined to show off the proud and colorful character of Mexico and its people.

Systema Solar

Systema Solar, Columbian hip-hop rap band, Cervantino Festival, Guanajuato

During the festival, I also had the opportunity to expand my appreciation of world music. On a whim, I went to see Systema Solar, a Columbian hip-hop rap band. Not normally my favorite musical genre, I surprisingly enjoyed the high-energy concert and the all-out dance party that erupted within the audience.

Alhondiga Stage

45th International Cervantino Festival, Guanajuato

Much of the musical rhythms and performing arts of the International Cervantino Festival were foreign to me. Like trying to decipher the nonsensical ramblings of Don Quixote, I couldn’t sing along to the lyrics or follow a lot of the dialogue. Somehow, through the universal language of the arts, I was still able to understand. I know that sounds crazy.

Quixote Painting

Don Quixote Iconographic Museum, Guanajuato


Blogger’s Note:  Just before Esther was scheduled to re-join me in Guanajuato for the end of the Cervantino festival, her mammogram revealed a suspicious mass. I flew home in time for her biopsy, which indicated that it was benign. We are greatly relieved, but she will still require surgery to remove the mass. As such, we have cancelled our month in Michoacán, and will be staying home to celebrate the holidays, and plan our next exciting month-at-a-time adventure.


16 thoughts on “Crazy for Cervantino

  1. Hey joe, The moment I read the word Don Quixote, I was transformed into a different world. I have always found him so adorable! 🙂 Just the perfect time to be in that place, i guess.
    Wishes to Esther. Glad to know that the mass is benign and you are with her now.
    Am wondering what will be your next destination. Will it be Columbia? (taking a cue from your attending the columbian hip hop rap band concert 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your very kind words regarding Esther. We had quite a scare, but are now confident that we can travel again early next year. We too are wondering what our next destination will be. We are strongly considering a return to Mexico, but I already know how to dance to Columbian music. Also, I never really thought of Don Quixote as adorable, but now that I have experienced Cervantino, I think I can see what you mean.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hola Joe! I’m sorry to read that your visit was cut short, but relieved to know that Esther is fine. I’m confident that there will be many more travels for you both in your future. Certainly, if you get back to Mexico, I recommend Oaxaca – especially around Dia de los Muertos (I have a friend there now and she’s having so much fun). We hope to be there next year at this time.

    I certainly read Don Quixote in school but, like so make works for fiction when read at a young age, I’m sure I missed so much. Your post has inspired me to read it again. I had never heard of the Cervantino festival – what an amazing event! I love how they invite a foreign country to join in the celebration every year (something tells me that it will be a few years before the U.S. gets that honor).

    Best wishes to Esther for an uneventful surgery and speedy recovery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hola Janis! Thank you very much for your concern for Esther, and your encouraging thoughts regarding her recovery. Your recommendations have never let us down, so Oaxaca is definitely on our wish list for future travels. I really hope that you can make it back to Oaxaca for Dia de los Muertos next year. I am sure it would be an experience of a lifetime. Cervantino is another one of Mexico’s great festivals. I hope you can experience it too some day.


  3. Hi Joe, it sounds as if you had the chance to enjoy a broad range of performances during the festival. A symphony, the folklorico performance and hip-hop certainly cut across many genres! So glad to hear that Esther’s prognosis is positive and we wish her all the best in her surgery. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim & Anne, Cervantino provided an opportunity to see performances that I would not normally think of attending. There were unique events every day and night, with very reasonable ticket prices (less than US$10), or free-of-charge. I think that it helped to broaden my appreciation for world music and the performing arts. We appreciate your concern for Esther’s health issue, and positive wishes for her treatment. All the best!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Best wishes to Esther. Hope the surgery goes well. Home for the holidays is not a bad thing. I’ve never heard of this festival but be careful Cervantes is addictive. Maybe in the new year you can re-title your blog — Tilting at Windmills: One Month at a Time

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey W.D., Thanks for the positive thoughts for Esther. She is determined to kick this challenge in the butt. Even though he was Spanish, Cervantes is sort of a cult hero in Mexico. I would like to read more Cervantes, but I really don’t need another addiction in my life. Interesting proposed blog re-title, but don’t you think it would get pretty boring reading about me fighting new imaginary enemies each month?


  5. Another learned post from you Joe, thank you for your insights, although I smile as I picture you bopping along to Colombian rap hiphop. I have to admit to being quite ignorant to the writings and legend of Don Quixote and many things Mexican (apart from 1960’s tv shows). We have friends house sitting in Oaxaca and they are sharing many photos of their wonderful times there that we are seriously considering Mexico as a destination for next year. A serious health scare is always a concern and I was pleased you said you flew home for the diagnosis so that Esther was not on her own. Surgery is not nice but at least it will be best for Esther and I send her my best wishes. Similarly, we had to stay “home” for the holidays last year and through into the following months, lovely to spend time with loved ones during uncertain times. Enjoy researching and planning your next month at a time travel destination.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue & Dave, Thank you for taking time out from your thrilling travels in Southeast Asia to check in on us. Esther is in good spirits, happy to be home for the holidays, but eager to hit the road again. I have not been to Oaxaca, but many people have told me that it is a wonderful part of Mexico to visit. We are considering a return to Mexico after the new year, and may include it in our itinerary. All the best to you guys, and happy travels!


    • A worthy addition to your Guanajuato bucket list, Agness. I am sure you will enjoy the festival and the vibrant and friendly vibe of this hillside town. With 19 days and nights of free or inexpensive world music and other performances, you cannot afford to miss it. Happy travels!


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