December 4, 2013
Celebrating Cervantes’ legacy in styleFriday, November 1, 2013
Celebrating Cervantes’ legacy in style
Ten-day-long festival is being held in Azul, home to largest Quixote collection
çYou can find large collections of Cervantes’ works around the world, and you may think that the largest ones would be in capital cities. But, guess what?
The largest collection of Quixote’s outside Spain is available in Azul, Buenos Aires province. The city, located 300km from Buenos Aires City, houses 300 editions of El Quijote, posters, drawings, newspapers, magazines and sculptures about Cervantes works at the Casa Ronco museum.
Azul is the Cervantine City of Argentina, and of course, it has its own Cervantine Festival. The seventh edition of this collective project opened yesterday and runs through November 10. Activities include talks, conferences, round tables, music and theatre shows, exhibitions, walks, story telling and tourism, among others. Most activities are free of charge. Participants include writer María Teresa Andruetto, musician Chango Spasiuk, US blues player Eddie Clearwater, the Babel Orkesta, artists Juan Carlos Cambre and Omar Estela and Game On! El arte en juego.
“In the beginning it was a small event and each year it became bigger and bigger, even breaking with local antinomies. The festival also let us show our pampas roots, our culture and our people,” said Culture and Education Secretary of Azul, Estela Cerone.
“For a small city like this, receiving valuable works from Cervantes and José Hernández (Martín Fierro) was very encouraging. Visitors can find a blend of native and immigrant cultures,” stated José Bendersky, director of Azul’s Cervantine Festival.
It is a very well-known fact that Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote is one the most influential works in Spanish literature and one of the most important novels of universal history. Published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615, the story of the ingenious gentleman of La Mancha has been translated into numerous languages.
It was only with the publication of the first volume of Don Quixote, in 1605, that Cervantes achieve financial success and popularity. Don Quixote became an instant success, and it spawned an unauthorized sequel by a writer who used the name Avellaneda. This sequel appeared several years after the original volume, and it inspired Cervantes to hurry along his own second volume in 1615. Cervantes died later that year.
Many of Don Quixote’s elements are drawn from Cervantes’ own life: the presence of Algerian pirates on the Spanish coast, the exile of the enemy Moors, the frustrated prisoners whose failed escape attempts cost them dearly, the disheartening battles displaying Spanish courage in the face of plain defeat, and even the ruthless ruler of Algiers. Cervantes biases pervade the novel as well, most notably in the form of a mistrust of foreigners.
Enriched by silver and gold pouring in from its American colonies, Spain was at the height of its European domination during Cervantes life. But Spain also suffered some of its most crippling defeats during this period, including the crushing of its seemingly invincible armada by the English in 1588. The tale of the captive in the first part of Don Quixote is a detailed account of the historical battles in which Cervantes participated. In this sense, Don Quixote is very much a historical novel.
Don Quixote also illustrates Spain’s divergent worlds. At the time, Spain was caught in the tumult of a new age, and Cervantes tried to create, with his Don Quixote, a way of discussing human identity, morality and art in those ever-shifting times. Although the Renaissance gave rise to a new humanism in European literature, popular writing continued to be dominated by romances about knights. Cervantes also included social and religious commentary in his work, bitterly criticizing the class structure in Spain, where outmoded concepts of nobility and property prevailed even as education became more widespread. The arrogance of the Duke and the Duchess in the second part underlines how unacceptable Cervantes found these class distinctions. Likewise, the wisdom of Sancho and Teresa Panza is a victory for old-fashioned goodness in a world that makes people practical but superficial.