San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Let Me Tell You a Story

Storytelling is an historic art going back to the beginning of language. Before reading became universal it was the way news was spread and culture passed down.

Storytelling is still a popular pastime – whether it’s via books, on television, at the theater, storytime with children or swapping the latest gossip.

Storytelling is a worldwide art form, and Costa Rica will this month welcome some Heavy-weight, international storytellers. They will converge on Alajuela for the 3rd Annual International Storytelling Festival, starting Nov. 19 with a giant Cuentarata at Alajuela’s Central Park with storytellers on every corner and around the central fountain.

Storytellers from Spain, Mexico, Cuba and Colombia will give free performances throughout the week (Nov. 22-26) at the Municipal Theater in Alajuela and at the Escuela Central in Atenas. All programs will begin at 7 p.m.

No need to be fluent in Spanish to join in the fun with these stories. You can count on lots of action, participation, music, gestures and tricks. Simply watching is OK, too. It’s a good way to become acquainted with Costa Rica’s rich color. Some storytellers demand audience participation and not doing so may bring on a scolding – something that happened to this writer once for not stretching out her arms wide enough to show how big the giant was!

Master storyteller and organizer of the festivals is Juan Madrigal, an Alajuelense known as Juan Cuentacuentos. He got his start years ago while teaching catechism at his parish church. By hamming up Bible stories to hold the interest of the restless children, Madrigal’s class expanded every week. Now with the Ministry of Culture, Madrigal conducts programs and workshops throughout Costa Rica and represents the country at festivals abroad.

“Stories are everywhere,” Madrigal insists. “Legends, old tales or by observing the world around us – there are plenty of stories.”

So whether you understand them or not, they are fun events where you can join in with handclapping, foot-stomping or stretching out your arms to show just how big is the giant.


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