Migrations Festival celebrates Guatemalan culture in Turners Falls

  • Colorful art was on display at the Migrations Festival held Monday at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Colorful art on display at the Migrations Festival held Monday at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Migrations Festival at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls on Monday featured Connecticut-based mariachi band Fiesta del Norte. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Art and auction items on display at the Migrations Festival held Monday at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/12/2021 5:32:10 AM

TURNERS FALLS — The fifth annual Migrations Festival had the village thinking both globally and locally for Indigenous Peoples Day on Monday.

Held at the Great Falls Discovery Center, this year’s festival showcased a collection of Guatemalan art from Indigenous Mayan artists.

Following a yearlong hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s turnout was “amazing,” according to Lorna Kepes, co-founder of the GuateMaya Art and Culture Connection, which brought the artwork to Turners Falls. In addition to the art adorning the walls of the Great Hall, attendees enjoyed outdoor refreshments, a raffle of GuateMayan wares and a live performance from Connecticut-based Mexican mariachi band Fiesta del Norte.

“I was pleasantly surprised at how many came out,” she said.

Kepes had her hands full during the festival as she exchanged raffle tickets for folded-up dollar bills. Locals from various walks of life, including children proudly announcing their Guatemalan heritage, carefully considered which piece of art they wanted to compete for with their tickets.

Kepes added that a significant number of familiar faces returned to the festival after attending in previous years. She said the GuateMaya Art and Culture Connection works to diversify the event experience from year to year.

“A lot of people come back because they’re interested in what we do each year,” she explained.

One such festival attendee was Beverly Rose Tilli, a Turners Falls resident who said she’s attended each Migrations Festival since its inaugural year. She said this year’s theme is a worthy next chapter in that it provides a look into a culture she’d hardly been familiar with before.

“I never knew much about it before, and I still don’t,” Tilli said. “It’s good to learn more.”

She added that the exhibit was not only fascinating to attend, but wholesome and important for Montague residents.

“I think it enriches the town in general and I think it enriches people’s lives artistically and culturally,” Tilli said. “To feel like you’re meeting people in Guatemala through their art is nice.”

Although Tilli said her knowledge of Indigenous Guatemalan culture was minimal, she expressed special admiration for artwork of a quetzal, the vibrantly colored national bird of Guatemala. She attributed this to her appreciation for local Afro-Andean fusion band Viva Quetzal.

“Quetzal has been one of my favorites,” she said.

Tying Guatemalan culture into the lives of locals in attendance held added significance for Kepes, who considered the calendar date.

“This is the first time we’ve done this on Indigenous Peoples Day,” she said.

All in all, Kepes was upbeat about how the day played out.

“People have been really appreciative,” she said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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