The first edition of the Festival El Poncho was on July 30th of 1954. That same year it was called “Festival del Tejido Catamarca” and it was developed on the traditional Manzana del Turismo.
Dr. Armando Casas Noblega was the governor at that time, and together with his cabinet, considered the native weaving as an authentic local industry, with an exquisite quality and high artistic value. Our province is also where El Poncho finds its most devoted followers: the “teleras”.
In the year 1967 it was stablished the month of July every year, as permanent, as the month of El Poncho’s celebration, which then acquires international hierarchy. This event is carried out always in coincidence with our winter recess.
At the time the National and International Festival El Poncho was born,it began on July 5th until July 16th of 1967. It counted with the presence of national level artists. It was a special event for Catamarca and it had a big national level gathering, even with the visit of of the President of the Nation, lieutenant Juan Carlos Ongania.
“At the opening day the Festival El Poncho reached outstanding features.” was La Union journal’s headline, corresponding to the edition of July 6th of 1967.
The spirit of The Festival El Poncho was the same as always; its conception turned around on that Catamarca would became, for 10 days, the stage that convokes all craftmen- from all items- and music cultist of our lands, even if they were a national level artist and locals.
Local press dean, making reference to the object of the Festival, said “It aims to show the crafty, industrial and commercial potential, yet unknown by most of its own habitants.”
That historical week was announced as “An event that possibly has no precedent on Catamarca”. This ad was displayed on a retrospective show of argentinian cinema, in which showed movies that marked wonderful moments of our national cinema.
The Fray Mamerto Esquiú Center was the central scenary of the event. Nowadays it is known as La Manzana del Turismo. Two sheds were conditioned to receive more than 3.000 turists that arrived to Catamarca that same weekend.
In the first shed were the Catamarca’s craft exposition, where the products of different locations of Catamarca were exhibited.
The National Festival El Poncho was broadcasted by LW7 Radio Catamarca, which began the transmition together with Radio El Mundo and the Azul y Blanca Emisoras Argentinas networks. The locution was in charge of Anita Martinena, Luis Oscar Aisa and Juan Jose Serra.
The movie “Gerra Gaucha”, directed by Lucas Demare, based on Leopoldo Lugones work, opened the national cinema show. The gala performance for the local cinematography began shortly after 22:00 p.m. , when the five stars, that were invited, entered the show room of the Cine Teatro Catamarca.
That same week, the recognize folklorist Jaime Dávalos were at La Union journal, to sign poetry books and discs.
According to the initial planification, the festival was performed almost every year, excepted on some opportunities, for example, during military government.
In the context of the principal characteristic of the festival, it emphasizes the craft exhibition, that counts with the presence of craftmen from all of our country, which offer their high quality works. It is not less significant the industrial exhibition that put on the companies that are on our own geography.
On the other hand,it is destacated the commercial exhibits, which show the economical work of the woman and the man of this region.
The recreational and cultural activities show the work of a whole province that is searching a better life quality and to make this particular event a “show window” to expose to the world its success.
The folkloric festival becomes a “gathering space” where singing and dancing get the visitants delighted, making them participants of a celebration they will never forget.
After moving on from a place to another, like La Manzana del Turismo, the Polideportivo Capital and the ex- Regimiento de Infanteria, during the performed festival in 2007, El Poncho opened its own house, El Predio Ferial, that besides its own event, it is used to organized different social, cultural, and economical-political events. One year later the second stage was completed; a lively top work in Catamarca´s culture.
The Poncho, an unique piece of wearing.
The Poncho is, with no doubt, the piece of wearing that can be considered as of an universal usage, because it was used by the old cultures from all the continents.
According to the Brazilian etnographer Cámara Cascudo, the Hispanic men would have received, from the ancient Mediterranean cultures, the roman penula, which means the journey cape or war cape.
This Spanish heritage, in the context of the America´s conquest process, had received the influence of the weaving cultures from Mexico, Centro America and Las Andinas, to soon become a everyday clothing. Already in the XVIII century, the poncho was registered from California to the South of our country. In the Virreynato del Rio de La Plata´s geography, the ponchos that were being used, were made in “provincias de arriba” (Salta, Jujuy, Catamarca, Tucuman, Santiago del Estero and Cordoba).
If we try to etymologically determine the word poncho, it lead us to walk through an uncertain path. We need to search on the contributions, that were made by some some of the most respectable authors, to be able to have a general concept. For example Toranto y Marí define the poncho as a square piece of fabric with a longitudinal opening in the middle, which let us put our heads through it. On that way it covers us from our neck till our legs, according to its dimensions and sizes. Some ponchos from Chile and Bolivia only cover the body from the neck to the waist, and others called “talares” cover the body from the neck to the heels. (TORANTO-MARI.2003).
Emeric Essex Vidal, in the work “Ilustraciones Pintorescas de Buenos Aires y Montevideo” says the poncho is made of 2 pieces of fabric, of 7 feet large and 2 feet wide, sewed together by their larger side except on the middle, where it is left a hole big enough to put our heads through it. He also says that this word (poncho) in the spanish language means “aragan” (lazy) because the poncho is considered useless to accomplish any kind of work. (LOPEZ-DUPEY-NARDY.1998).
Arsene Isabelle, french traveler, who visited us between the years 1830 and 1834, commented tha the poncho is a piece of wearing not less essential that the rest pieces of wearing used to travel to the plain, because it protects you from the rain, dust, heat and cold. It is a piece made of cotton or wool, a cotton-wool mix, but more commonly pure wool, with many colours on it. It has 7 hands wide and 12 hands large, with a 1 foot large opening in the middle, where our heads can get through. The poncho reminds to a priest little home. There are also ponchos with a woven large neck which can be pulled up for more warm. (AVALO.1967).
On his own, Alcides D’Orbigny, on the book “Corrientes y sus Habitantes.” assures “Each man has, besides, his poncho which is wored as a cape. When men walk, they wrap it around their bodies, like the old times, to protect themselves from the cold and the rain, and when the weather is good, they put it on their backs. The poncho is, at all times, a night blanket…a gender piece of fabric of about 7 feet large and 4 feet wide, with an opening in the middle…They are more or less thin and commonly gray with red and blue stripes. There are ponchos of others colours, being the colours blue, red and green the most used. (LOPEZ-DUPEY-NARDY.1998).
About the origin of the name of this weaving or piece of wearing, we will say that until not long ago, the commonly opinion gives it an Araucanian origin, from the word “pontho”. Nevertheless, according to Marcos A. Moringio statements in an interesting published article in the Nueva Revista de Filosofia Hispanica, he is concerned to prove the the word is from a peninsular origin: “Maybe it is from the lexicon of the spanish seamenship from the Mediterranean.”. Carlos Dellepiane y Cálcena, in the investigation work titled “La Artesania del Tejido en Catamarca” presented on the Primer Congreso de Historia de Catamarca, assures that this clothing was already used by the natives before the peninsular arrival; and because some conquest issues, the spanish men were not allow to wear their usal clothes, so they found themselves obliged to use the natives clothes. The poncho began to be known as a confortable spanish cape substitude.
“El Ponchito”, its history
El Ponchito (little poncho) is denominated with this title because it is a kids version of the celebration within the National and International Festival El Poncho’s context.
It is a schoolish contest which is organized by the Consejo General de Educacion together with La Supervision Tecnica de Musica. El Ponchito was called, at that time, “Expresiones del Canto y la Danza de la Niñez de Catamarca”.
Traditionally it was performed by the speaker Humberto Jerez, and in its beginnings this event have have castings on Catamarca’s seversal locations, where people selected the best exponents of each items of the event itself and the “donosa”.
Afterwards, this first contact of the Catamarca’s children with a popular culture event and with a popular celebration, El Ponchito have sufered some transformations, adding differents elements from others foreing cultures.
That is why the Secretaria de Estado de Cultura aimed to resignify this children’s celebration in its own traditional essence, recreating a new space for the children’s expretions with a multicultural characteristics.
News and greatful surprises
The magnitude of the brand new infrastructure, that presented the opening in 2007, of the first stage, and in 2008 of the second stage, of the Predio Ferial Catamarca as the definitive house of the National and International Festival El Poncho, has facilitated us to see, on the last 2 editions, differents facts that never have been registered in the context of the most sentimental expensive celebration to Catamarca’s people.
During the 2007 edition, it have been registered a particular fact, based on that it was the first time that a daily chronicle-about what had happended the night before- was distributed to all the differents press media of Catamarca.
This initiative was carried out in a totally new way, representing a clear support for all the workers, and the national and local press media that have been registered for the broadcasting for each night of El Poncho.
This job was in charge of the area press responsible, composed by the local professionals Javier Villacorta and Maria Soledad Ortiz, with the attendance of the Mendoza’s journalist Laura Romboli. In the 2008 edition this work team was repited with the same professionals plus the journalist Jorge Quiroga.
The brand new stages of the Predio Ferial also facilitated to count on an optimun place to carry out programmed press conferences, with national and local artists and with authorities and special guests.
The organization also could show differents activities within the Festival’s enviros, because the organization could concentrate in a same place, and more confortable one, crafts and shows, and also carry out conferences, debates, and so on.
The 2008 edition represented an unforgetable moment to the National Festival El Poncho, because for the first time, the image of La Virgen del Valle was at the Festival during the 10 days of celebration. Even, on the last night the image was carried to the main stage (by the bishop Luis Urbanc), making a remarkable emotional moment on the public.
In the passed years, also, the National Festival El Poncho have implemented a modern control system to give access to the public when they go to see the singers and dancers.
This procedure is composed by inteligent pin wheels with a central magnetic stripes tecnology, this allows us to put the tickets in four possible ways, making it easier to the people entry.
The differents selling systems and access control modules are easier to handle and more adaptable to any modification, this also turned out transparent and trustful to the audence and the production of bigger events, because they allow to make an authentic control of the selling tickets and the amount of people that attend the shows at night, having of that way an exact number of people on the Festival El Poncho 2008.
There are five pin wheels located on the show access and two tenicians to control the tickes entry, and to attend the doors control. It all is an advance, that show that Catamarca’s celebration grows permanently.
From the book “Cantale Chango a mi Tierra” of Javier Villacorta. Sarquis Editorial.
The National and International Festival El Poncho was born in 1967 to revalue the “hileras” and “tejedoras” works (women’s weaving works) who are the true protagonists of this event.
50 year have passed from the first edition, and “El Poncho” has became an identity symbol of Catamarca and its own celebration is taken and lived as an “Everybody Festival”.
In all this time it has grown its infrastucture, its exhibitors, its artists, and most important its visitors, who chose Catamarca on July, to be part of this celebration, the biggest winter celebration of Argentina.
El Poncho is a special celebration which starts in the morning with the knowledge and the creations of craftmen, and it keeps going till the night at the heat of singing and dancing.
Around the Festival El Poncho it waves gathering, senses and representations which,as Catamarca’s people, allow us to recognize ourselves as a town and to show with pride to the outside who we are.
This 2017, Catamarca convokes everyone with its Poncho de Oro (Golden Poncho) from July 14th to July 23th .