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Culture & music

Revived festival brings market, sounds of Mexico to center

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Hand-crafted goods and the sounds of accordion music filled Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin on Saturday.

Those who came out to the organization’s Viva Seguin Conjunto Festival had the chance to play conjunto music, buy a variety of goods from jewelry to jam, see the Ballet Folklórico perform and more, Teatro De Artes Program Coordinator Beto Rincón said.

“This is the first conjunto festival that we’ve had since 2014,” he said. “We wanted to revive it because we’ve been receiving some inquiries from the community about it.”

The all-day event kicked off with Teatro’s first-ever De Mano a Mano Artisan Market in the morning.

“This market has been great. There has been a really good turnout,” Rincón said. “I’ve already heard from a few of the vendors as well who have said they’re doing really well.”

One of those vendors, Laura Arellano, of San Antonio, said she had a lot of people stop by her booth. Arellano runs a business called Blue Betties, where she sells handmade items such as jewelry and skirts.

“I think they’re drawn to the colors,” she said. “Especially the prints, they range in all types of designs. Most of my skirts are elastic, so they’re multi-sized.”

Sally Bermea, of Seguin, and her daughter stopped by Arellano’s booth and found something they liked.

“I’m enjoying this a lot, there’s so many different things here,” Bermea said. “I’ve bought an ornament of the Virgin Mary, and my daughter bought a bracelet and a card-holder.”

Felicia Jeffrey, of Seguin, who was having a good time at the event said she planned to buy one thing from each vendor.

“It’s amazing, we’re happy to be able to come out and support the arts, and we like to try to shop local,” she said. “I’ve bought this Game of Thrones side purse, an avocado from a local artist, necklaces, a picture and there is some awesome jam.”

The jam was hand made by Pamela Gonzales, of San Antonio, who runs Pam’s Jams. Gonzales passed out samples to those who passed by her booth, letting them try her jams which have a spicy twist to them.

“I like to create different flavors, and I don’t like them to be all sweet, so I add some spice to them,” she said. “I’ve got lemon rosemary, strawberry jalapeño, but the big hit has been the mangonada. It tastes just like drinking the mangonada.”

Gonzales praised Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin for hosting the event.

“I think it’s great that they are bringing things like this to Seguin,” she said. “Seguin has been fantastic. It has such great people. It’s been awesome.”

The market gave people a chance to learn about the vendors and their stories, Rincon said.

“Each one of the people here selling their wares, they have their own story as to why they’re doing what they’re doing and selling what they’re selling,” he said. “Each one of these people are providing something unique to the community. Teatro is excited to provide a space to these vendors.”

During the morning artisan market event, the Ballet Folklórico De La Rosa group performed for a crowd that watched and clapped as they danced traditional Mexican dances. They put on a performance later in the evening as well.

A conjunto workshop was held in the afternoon, after the market closed up shop. The workshop taught attendees traditional Mexican accordion music, Rincón said.

“Conjunto music is music that is comprised of an accordion and a bajo sexto,” he said. “It is music that originated in the northern part of Mexico, where there was a lot of German settlement. The Germans brought instruments prevalent in Germany including the accordion.”

Through the German immigration, conjunto music arrived in Mexico and eventually made its way up to where we are right now, he said.

Workshop instructors Robert Casillas and Rodolfo Lopez explained the history of conjunto during the workshop to attendees.

“When the Germans came over here, they brought their music with them,” Lopez said. “These are tunes that came and we adapted them to our music. So, music just comes. When we like something, we use it.”

The music was popular with the working class in Mexico, Lopez said.

“All they had was the accordion,” he said. “You couldn’t take a piano out into the fields. You couldn’t take an organ. All you had was an accordion.”

The accordion can play bases, he explained. Casillas played the base scale on the accordion for attendees and showed them the versatility of the instrument.

During the workshop, Casillas walked attendees through how to play different songs and notes. He gave advice to one attendee who was struggling to play a melody.

“Try to play it slow,” he said. “If you can’t play it slow, you won’t be able to play it fast. A lot of people try to play fast, but you have to learn the simple melodies first to progress and play the advanced melodies.”

After the conjunto workshop ended, the evening continued with other events such as a Ballet Folklórico performance and presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to longtime Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin member Mike Carillo.

“I hope people see that there are folks in their community that are making really amazing things, and that those people making these amazing things need the support of the community,” Rincón said.

He also hoped people saw that conjunto music has isn’t dead.

“It is still so very much so alive, and very much a part of our culture as Mexican-American people,” he said. “I hope they see there are still places like Teatro that are still promoting, supporting and encouraging this music and this culture.”

The event also gave those who came out a chance to learn about Teatro and see the different types of activities they host, he said.

Registration for Teatro’s Mariachi and Ballet Folklórico programs is Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information about registering, or to learn more about Teatro and future events, visit www.teatrodeartes.org .

Steffanie Agnew is a staff writer for the Seguin Gazette. She can be contacted by e-mail at steffanie.agnew@seguingazette.com .

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