San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
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Storytelling fest returns to Alajuela

The storytellers are coming! From Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico and from far off Spain, Japan and Mali, folks with the gift of gab are descending on the city of Alajuela for a week of tall tales. It’s a party, with stories in the streets, in the central park, in the museum and municipal theater and in barrios around Alajuela.

For the eleventh year in a row, Alajuela will become the City of Words as storytellers bring audiences to the edge of their seats. Groups such as Alaputenses, Alajuela’s own storytelling brigade, or the Abrapalabra from Colombia are among the guests.

Most days Nov. 6-13 will start with a story at 10 a.m. in the street in front of the Juan Santamaría Museum and Cultural Center, continuing with more stories throughout the day in the museum and one block down the street in the Municipal Theater (see detailed schedule below).

Stories will be told in Spanish, but it’s not necessary to be fully proficient to enjoy them. Many stories are interactive, so the audience gets to make noises and gestures or sing or yodel and become part of the story. It’s all designed to elicit smiles as the audience gets acquainted with other cultures. This year the stories are all about travel: to the future, the past, to other countries, real or make believe. Little airplanes made of clothespins will be given out at some performances.

Creator Juan Madrigal, nationally known as Juan Cuentacuentos (Juan the Storyteller) came up with the idea after participating in a story festival in Colombia.

“I wanted my family to see this: my mother, my friends, all of Alajuela,” he told The Tico Times. “Since I couldn’t take the whole city to Colombia, I brought the festival to Alajuela.”

But here it’s a party, not a festival, Juan insists: “It’s for fun.”

Madrigal hadn’t planned on a career as a storyteller. He began as a catechism instructor for kids and hammed up the Bible stories to keep their interest.

“Each week more kids came. They brought brothers, sisters, cousins, friends to Bible class,” he said. Word got around, and soon he had an audience instead of a class.

“Storytelling began with humans before there was writing,” Madrigal explains.

“It was the way information got passed around. Prehistoric cave paintings tell a story. Storytelling passed on traditions and history.”

In rural Costa Rica, stories still are a form of entertainment; most every Tico still knows about La Segua, the cart without oxen, Codejos the devil dog, and the headless priest.

All story events at the Juan Santamaría Museum are free. Alajuela is easy to get to by car or bus and a storytelling party is worth the trip.

Festival Internacional de Cuenteros – Alajuela takes place Nov. 6-13, at and around the Juan Santamaría Museum in downtown Alajuela. Performance times: Nov. 6, 10 a.m. Nov. 7, noon, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9, 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11, 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. For details call 8835-5998 or visit the Museum Facebook page.

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