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La Fiesta del Barrio – Melbourne Fringe Festival

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by Felicity (subscribe)
A Melbournian who wonders as I wander. I have spent a lot of life colouring in moments and take great pleasure in creative expression of experience. Interested in Design, Art, Film, Photography, Painting and all things French.
Event: -
Immersive theatre bridges cultural divide
I have always connected Latin America with strong emotion and colour. I have wished I could be a part of such life and passion but never known how or had the courage to approach. La Fiesta Del Barrio is an invitation no lover of the language, dance and culture should miss out on. It revealed to me no courage was needed, for the culture is all about embrace.

The Producers, Maria Yebra and Fran Miller-Pezo, have gone to an immense amount of time and effort create the villages (Barrio's) of their Spanish and Chilean heritage. From the effusive first welcome, you sense that it is Spanish people's genuine nature that creates the culture's warmth.

Maria and Fran have aptly chosen nostalgia as a key connection point for cross-cultural communication. They have weaved happy memories into a cultural haven. The scene is a Spanish neighbourhood during the preparation of the annual Saint Party. This is a cherished tradition to many Latin People and tradition has a multicultural understanding that resonates with any audience.


I arrived with my Mum at the Brunswick venue Siteworks in wander mode. We took in the gallery sign and worried we weren't in the right place. A sign soon caught our eye and we didn't have to feel unsure of ourselves at all long. An effusive welcome soon gathered us onto the waiting Bus.

Bus handles from rafters and a wall of material windows are surprisingly sufficient to conjure a sense of transport and journey anticipation. As more people gathered it was easy to imagine bobbing along a dusty road toward a remote destination. When the bus had filled with people, we subsequently arrived.

Bus Handles, Imagine, transport.
Imagine and you are there.

A recording set the scene and we were both taken aback and joyfully overwhelmed by the magnanimous greeting of a village in traditional dress. Personal and caring, all awkwardness was dismissed. Reserve traditionally forefront in mind, flew with the distraction of admiration for the exhibition design.

The Village

Each room in the village was vibrant with detail and personality. Embroidered tablecloths made one room feel like home. Another space was darkened. It featured stories of Spanish and Chilean immigrants to Australia. A model village lit up to illustrate where they had come from.

I really enjoyed listening to these insights. Particularly in learning that for one immigrant it was the Australian bush that gave her the greatest sense of belonging. It made clear how a love of the landscape crosses cultures. The meaning it seeps into your identity transcends all differences.

village lights, Brunswick, narrative, culture
Village lights of belonging

A bite of culture

On arrival, we had received a ticket for an empanada. My mum asked me what an empanada was. I knew it was triangular but Mum feared it was spicy. We exchanged our tickets for cheesy moreish parcels and a traditional pastry cake. The generous portion of this rich delicacy was a treat we could take home and savour. I have later learned an empanada filling is specific to the region it is from. One had mince and egg which research suggests originates from Argentina.

I tried some Sangria for $5. This sherry-like punch had a festive feel. From here, we located the very activity both my mum and I were most waiting for - dancing. (I recommend you wear better shoes than my runners to not feel held back from release by clothing).

Salsa and Merengue

The advertisement suggests tango but when we entered there was Salsa underway. The brilliantly engaging teacher had us feeling we were dancing in no time and we didn't want to stop. Her illustrative instruction and the vibrant music took the bite out of Melbourne chill. I could finally take off my many coats and I felt so lighthearted and happy here it re-inspired me with how much I'd value doing this every night. In the distant past, I did a bronze medal in Merengue, At that time, it was just the name of some dance - in this glow the heritage of the dance-filled it with meaning and passion. Time slipped away in this room and all too soon events were soon to come to a close.

Poetry and a Pinnate to close

We gathered back to hear a traditional speech opening the festival and a poem. The music of the language is like a soothing stream of gentle laughter. The poem was by Gabriela Mistral. The first Latin Women to win the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature. A statue to her suggested her importance to the event but it was not until I later read of the emotional power of her poetry I fully appreciated her significance. She expressed, in particular, her Latin American identity - what this event was all about.

The festival ended on a high note with the smashing of the Pinnate. Whoever was game took it in turns to give the colourful paper maché a hearty wack. There were murmurs querying whether lollies were inside but the confetti that finally rained on the floor was a fitting finale. It was metaphorical of multiculturalism. All the multiplicity of paper specks looked like different people thrown together. This created a glittering picture on the floor of the beauty of difference. Each colour was only seen and complemented through its contrast.
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*Felicity was invited as a guest
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Why? Because its an unmissable opportunity for cultural immersion
When: 22 September-29 September 7pm, 29 September-30 September 1pm Matinée
Phone: 0427 901 170
Where: Siteworks, 33 Saxon St Brunswick, 3056
Cost: $38 Concession, $48 Full Fare Adult
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