SANTIAGO – What started as a modest music contest in Viña del Mar is now one of the most important music festivals in Latin America. Every year, National and international music artists and humorists fill the amphitheater of the Quinta Vergara during the last week of February. This year, artists such as Marc Anthony, Sebastian Yatra, Bad Bunny, and even the Backstreet Boys are confirmed.
This Friday night, the red carpet will be out for this year’s top artists and performers to initiate the Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar. Then, on Sunday, the show begins. This year’s hosts are Maria Luisa Godoy, from TVN, and Martín Cárcamo, from Canal 13. They will be in charge of presenting the artists and giving out the gaviotas to the artists who el monstruo decides are worthy.
From a modest music contest…
In 1959, Gustavo Lorca, mayor of Viña del Mar, together with Carlos Ansaldo, director of the Tourism Department and Public Relations of Viña del Mar, organized the music for the Feria de Viña del Mar. They needed music for the event at the Quinta Vergara park.
The event did so well that a year later, on Feb. 21, they decided to organize a unique music contest. Contestants had to write an original song about Viña del Mar. To fill in, they also invited small artists from around the world. During the years to come, a folk music contest was added, and eventually the contest was televised.
In 1964, the city completed construction of an amphitheater, named the Concha Acústica (Acoustic Conch). The amphitheater, upgraded in the early 2000s, both protects the artists from the cold seaside nights and projects the music. It stands with a roof in the shape of a flying seagull which became the icon of the festival. It was inspired by the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California.
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… to a glamorous festival
These days, the festival is always preceded by a gala where the invited artists and all the most popular Chilean television and movie icons walk the carpet. It takes place outside the Enjoy Casino of Viña del Mar and is inspired by Hollywood red carpet events. It is always held on the Friday before the first night of the festival. This year’s will be Feb. 22.
The awards and El Monstruo
Over the years, the festival awards have evolved. In the first years, awards were limited to the international competition. During this time, the award went from a commemorative Chilean shield to a golden harp. It later morphed into a Gaviota de Plata (Silver Seagull).
The mayor of the city tried to maintain the importance of the competition prize winners, but the audience roared for their favorite artists regardless. To please the audience, the festival producers began handing out awards to the invited artists based on the audience’s response, and the international competition was pushed to the background.
Thus, although the festival has judges, specifically for the international competition, as the festival has grown more popular, the live audience, taking the name of El Monstruo del Festival (the Monster of the Festival), has become a judge in its own right. The name is due to the crowd’s great power and the intimidation it radiates each night. The crowd has even interrupted artists mid-performance to boo them off the stage. The nickname also gives them certain expectations: they await the minimal opportunity to demonstrate their intolerance for an artist. In return, the artists know that the awards they receive are given to them by their fans, which enhances the awards’ value.
La Reina del Festival
Every year, in the week leading up to the festival, the press in charge of the event has the job of electing the “queen” of that year’s event. In the beginning, the women chosen to participate had to be part of the show, as a judge, contestant in the international competition, invited artist, or from the television channel in charge of the event that year.
In 2003, the competition was extended for media purposes, to all important communications media, and the chance for any Chilean television channel or radio station to represent itself with a candidate became an option.
Since 2000, it has also been televised for the public as an extension of the main event. The judges are accredited journalists who vote in secret after the week is over. The winner is then crowned, gifted a ring and ribbon, and must jump into the pool of the Hotel O’Higgins. (The hotel is the official venue where all the celebrity festival attendees stay.)
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This year’s festival
TVN and Canal 13 are in charge of the festival this year. They have formed an alliance with Fox Channel and Fox Live to broadcast the festival internationally. Hosts Godoy and Cárcamo are new to hosting the show.
This year’s headliners are eagerly anticipated. Marc Anthony and Sebastian Yatra are very popular artists in Latin America and worldwide. The Backstreet Boys have surpassed ticket sales expectations, with some tickets reselling for more than triple the original price. Humorist Jorge Alís (or Argentino Culiao, as he is nicknamed) is returning to the festival and hopes to dominate (once again) El Monstruo. Marco Antonio Solís and Raphael are longtime classics who are expected to romanticize the atmosphere in Viña del Mar. Meanwhile, Bad Bunny and Becky G take the stage for the first time.
Maria Paz Rodriguez Zaninovic. Born in Santiago, Chile and moved to the US at a young age. Here she began noticing the differences between societies and her curiosity grew about how people think, how countries work, and how culture affects lifestyles around the world. Although professionally a dentist, her passion for writting and photography has always been a part of her everyday life.