San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
FIA 2015

Sonámbulo cancellation adds to FIA woes

As the troubled 2015 edition of the International Arts Festival limps to a close, the show of popular national band Sonámbulo Psicotropical promised to be a bright spot in a fortnight filled with disorganization and controversy. However, it turned out to be just another casualty on a long list of cancellations.

“WE ARE SORRY to report the cancellation of our concert… thanks to the Culture Ministry and its terrible management,” read a statement on the band’s Facebook page, posted four hours before the scheduled show and peppered with angry words in all capital letters. “We hereby publicly express our TOTAL INDIGNATION with the people who are currently governing our country. We could name several problems that have taken place during the past year, but today we’re focusing on cultural issues.”

According to the statement, the concert was cancelled because a neighbor of the concert site, the National Culture Center (CENAC) in downtown San José, complained about the noise generated by the previous nights’ shows. As part of the FIA’s organizational problems this year, several shows have been rescheduled and relocated to the CENAC in recent days, causing an unexpected din in the neighborhood.

Tico Times Editor-in-Chief David Boddiger, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the CENAC, said he was not the neighbor who called in the complaint but agrees with the caller.

“Apparently the ‘C’ in ‘CENAC’ stands for ‘cacophony,’” he said, adding that parking during the rescheduled shows has been inefficiently and unfairly enforced. “It’s been two weeks of hell – nonstop noise. Why should we have to suffer for the ministry’s incompetence?”

Sonámbulo’s statement went on to call for the immediate firing of Culture Minister Elizabeth Fonseca, vice ministers Luis Carlos Amador and Alfredo Chavarría, and festival organizer Inti Picado, all of whom have received ample criticism in recent weeks as the festival disintegrated before the eyes of a horrified public.

The changes capped off a week of continued fallout from initial festival disorganization that resulted in the cancellation of all major concerts, although the smaller-scale components of the festival such as artisan demonstrations and folk-music shows continued as planned. Controversy in recent days included criticism of the reported $188,000 the government paid Chilean rock group La Ley, whose show was among those cancelled but is now rescheduled for June 20, with the government assuming the costs of La Ley’s trip back to Costa Rica in June as well.

The festival still offers a variety of activities on this, its final day, including performances by Zarzuela company of “El Huésped del Sevillano” at the Parque La Libertad Auditorium in Desamparados at 3 p.m., and the Grupo Folclórico Curubandá at the Aserrí Central Park at 4 p.m. A full day of action (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) is also scheduled for the CENAC, including an hour of poetry from writers such as Carlos Villalobos and Julieta Dobles at 2 p.m.

For a full schedule of events, along with plenty of colorful commentary from disgruntled festival fans, visit the FIA Facebook page.

See also: How Costa Rica’s 2015 International Arts Festival flopped




Contact Katherine Stanley at

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Ken Morris

I think there are flaws inherent in this notion of an “arts festival,” beginning with the idea that it’s somehow in the public interest to pay bands (even foreign ones) to perform for a passive audience–and bands that already get paying gigs in local clubs. How exactly is this art, or at least art that’s in the public interest?

What we don’t know is whether this year’s attempt to disperse the arts festival to areas outside of San José contributed to the screw ups. It probably did, and insofar as it did the culture minister probably shouldn’t be faulted, but we simply don’t know.

I also opposed the idea of dispersing the festival. I don’t see anything wrong with having a capitol city and headquartering cultural events in it. It seems misdirected egalitarianism to disperse capitol city stuff to the hinterlands. Even so, I was curious to see whether it would succeed. It didn’t.

But mostly I don’t understand how passively listening to amplified bands (that also play clubs) is public-interest art. I favor the arts, even support public support of the arts, but don’t follow how paying the latest garage band to perform in public justifies public support.

To my mind, an arts festival should be hands-on for the public and/or expose it to important but commercially unviable art, like classical music or maybe indigenous arts.

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