The El Salvadoran town of Suchitoto overlooks a blue volcanic lake in a region long considered a place of great natural beauty. But the country’s 12-year civil war ravaged this cobblestoned town, and lingering unemployment and gang violence have left its citizens–especially its young people—without a lot of hope for their future.
Enter stage right an audacious project called Es Artes. This joint Salvadoran-Canadian initiative is bringing artists from the famed Stratford Festival in Ontario to Suchitoto to help create a Latin American center for theater—and tourism.
The Canadian volunteers join professional Salvadoran theater folk in training locals in everything from acting to costume sewing to stage welding.
Festival general director Antoni Cimolino says it’s not such a stretch to see the connection between the two places: The Stratford Festival emerged in the 1950s from an economically depressed town to become North America’s largest repertory theater, drawing 500,000 visitors a year.
“The difference,” he says, “is that when the Stratford Festival started, artists were sleeping in people’s houses. But in Suchitoto there’s already the best hotel in the entire country here, Los Almendros. It’s this gorgeous, renovated 16th-century home with a central courtyard and rooms with high ceilings. And there’s also this fantastic restaurant called the Restaurant of the Sculptor, because the owner sculpts these fascinating figures out of reclaimed wood. You can go for long walks in the countryside. There are these plunging ravines, and white birds go slowly flying across the sky. There’s this beautiful lake. It’s already just a great place to visit.”
Add some lively theater into the mix and you have the makings of a stellar arts weekend for the adventurous minded.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Watch the video to learn more about this inspiring project.