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Friday, February 23, 2024

Alajuela: Celebrating the Magic of Storytelling in Costa Rica

It’s story time in Alajuela as the 18th annual International Story Telling Festival gets underway and goes on til July 8th. There will be stories in the park, in the museum on the square, in the Municipal Theater just one block south of the square and at the El Llano church and a few other locations.   Storytellers from Spain, Mexico and all around Costa Rica will be in town to tell you a story.

You do not need to be fluent in Spanish to enjoy stories with cows mooing, ducks quacking or audience participation that includes being reamed out for not stretching your arms as wide as you can to indicate how fat the king is.  And if you cannot understand all the words of the story, audience watching can be fun too. 

Alajuela is Costa Rica’s second largest city and is west of San Jose a few miles west of the big airport.  It’s known as the city of mangos because of all the mango trees in the central park and for it’s big league soccer team “la Liga”.  And now it is recognized as the City of Words, or la ciudad de palabra because storytelling is embedded in its culture. 

The organizer of all this, Juan Cuentacuentos, or Juan storyteller, whose real name is Juan Madrigal, began humbly as a catechism teacher.  He hammed up the Bible stories with voices and gestures to keep the kids’ attention and soon noted that every week, more kids came to class.  After offering shows in Alajuela he became a national legend and has performed on TV and stage here and abroad.  He organized the first festival dedicated to words in 2007 and except for the pandemia years, has continued it.  Now, at 60, his shows are as energetic as ever.

 The schedule is too action packed to include but at 10 O’clock every morning until the 8th there will be a “parade” of activities in the streets and central park and on Saturday,  July 8th there is a marathon of storytelling in the park.  All activities are free and the museum and casa de Cultura will be open and free.  So come and enjoy Alajuela this week.  See the schedule at, or google alajuela ciudad de palabra 2023.                     

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