Festival brings Latin American culture to Seoul


The Viva la Vida Festival invites people to learn more about Latin American culture beyond football and Carnival.

Unlike other festivals that usually take place outdoors with many tents selling crafts and food, this festival takes a different approach. The Viva la Vida Festival, which lasts until the end of this month, brings the events indoors.

One may wonder why an event dedicated to a region famous for outdoor festivals is being held indoors, but the move has a purpose. The organizers have chosen different shops and cafes that sell items or food inspired by Latin America as venues, so attendees can continue to visit even after the festival is over.

The festival aims to give locals an experience similar to travel, such as having to find a restaurant serving regional cuisine using a mobile map application. Although the venues are spread out across Seoul, most can still easily be found because they are either in the Hongdae area in northwestern Seoul or in Gangnam District in southern Seoul.

The festival offers tango and salsa classes, survival language classes for travelers, music concerts, and even the chance to visit the homes of people from Latin America in Seoul to learn more about how ordinary people cook and eat at home.

“Just like you plan out your own trips, you can cherry pick time and content you want to customize your own festival,” said the festival organizer.

Many of the interesting events of the festival kick of this weekend. On Saturday, those interested can participate in a tango class or go enjoy a home-cooked meal at the home of a Mexican who has lived in Korea for more than 10 years. To keep events small enough for more intimate experiences, most of the events are open to a limited number of people. The first-come, first-serve home-cooked meal is open to five guests, while the tango class is inviting up to 15. The class is at local dance studio El Tango, so anyone who gets hooked after one class can sign up for a regular program.

An art class on Sunday invites people to bring in any artifacts people have kept from their visits to Latin America, or any objects that remind them of the region. For about two hours, participants will get to decorate a notebook with bus tickets or any other small souvenirs they might have hesitated to throw away but don’t have much value other than nostalgia. And the skills learned at the session can definitely be used again to commemorate future travels.

A movie night on Sunday is welcoming more guests than other events as it can hold up to 20. Two movies will be screened tomorrow at Glory Pub and Cafe in Mapo District, northwestern Seoul. The Brazilian movie “The Second Mother,” which was released here in November, and the 2010 documentary “Maids and Bosses,” which shows the social strata in Latin America through a relationship between a live-in maid and her employer, will be shown. By juxtaposing the relatively better known and lesser known movies back-to-back that show different aspects of Latin American family and social values, the festival hopes to inspire in moviegoers more in-depth interest in the prevailing issues of the countries.

One of the events being widely promoted to public is the Sofar Sounds concert. Although the concert series never releases information about the artist line-up until the concerts begin, the concert has agreed to feature Latin American music for its April 29 show as part of the festival.

The festival has been created not only to show the diversity of Latin American culture, as well as to shed light on those who need help. It was organized by Craftlink, a social venture set up to provide financial help to women and children in Guatemala and other nearby countries.

“There are many contents that go beyond Mexican food or popular travel destinations such as Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flat and Peru’s Machu Picchu, but those are still lesser known,” said Martin Ko, the founder of the company. He became familiar with Latin America during his travels in 2012, and became aware of many things people there lack. He now brings bracelets made by women in Guatemala to Korea, and includes the stories behind the items and color patterns. These bracelets are also available at shops during the festival.

“A little thing I can do here now is to spread the word on fun cultural contents I got to enjoy and hope such joy can turn into more financial gains for locals there.”

All the proceeds of the festival will be donated to nongovernment organizations in Latin America.

Source: KJD

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