In downtown Questa the 33rd Annual Cambalache will be celebrated on Saturday, October 3 with live music and entertainment, dancing (on the outdoor dance floor, woo hoo!), local Farmers Market vendors, artisans, and food booths. Plus, the customary ritual burning of the Cucui, and back this year, the Frito Pie-Eating Contest!
For the past 32 years, at the end of the growing season, the Cambalache Festival has brought together Questeños and visitors, vendors, booths, live music, and food. The 2020 event was the excep- tion—due to COVID-19, it was held vir- tually via live feed with only the burning of the Cucui and live-streamed music.
Cambalache 2021 will take place in person to help celebrate the final day of the Questa Farmers Market, which starts as usual at 10 am. Cambalache kicks off at 11 am with a welcome, blessing, and the onset of live music and entertain- ment for the day.
Social distancing will be observed, masks are highly recommended to be worn, even outside in this popular gath- ering, and there will be a sign-in table for contact tracing. When you sign in, you will receive a free commemorative 33rd Annual Cambalache 2021 sticker; there will also be 2021 Cambalache t-shirts and hats for sale, and Questa logo items (that make great Christmas gifts!). Much of the art of Cambalache, including the drawing of Cucui on this year’s poster, hats and T-shirts, was created by Jesus “Tito” Gomez, one of the original found- ers of Questa’s Cambalache 33 years ago.
The celebration of Cambalache began as a harvest festival among native peoples in our area, like many cultures around the world, and was later contin- ued by the colonizers. The word cambiar means small-scale bartering in villages or trading places. The Village of Questa’s annual fall harvest festival celebrates this ancient tradition as part of the Farmers Market, with the usual market offerings, and the addition of artisan crafts booths, and food vendors. Live music and en-tertainment will be presented through- out the day, featuring Michael Rael & Friends, the Questa Mariachis, Wendy Vigil Magic, and the Kids Ballet.
The popular Frito Pie-Eating Contest is back after its inaugural competition in 2019, when Quetta Vigil was crowned the World Champion after eating nine Frito Pies in three-minutes! This year, the event is named in commemoration of Quetta, who tragically passed away this past year, and whose presence will be greatly missed. The Quetta Cham- pionship Frito Pie-Eating Contest will take place at 2 pm, with kids and adults divisions; for a nominal entry fee, contes- tants have a chance to win cash prizes and bragging rights in both categories.
A long-standing Cambalache tradition is the burning of Cucui. There are many names for this burning man— Zozobra, Coco, or Coca, and there are many spellings and pronunciations, such as Cucuy, Cuco, Cuca, Cucu. Questa’s Cucui is a menacing guy, like a scare- crow. The youth from Vida del Norte Coalition are creating the Cucui, con- structed of old clothes stuffed with straw, and a papier-mâché head. Each year he has a different look. In 2020 his head was fashioned to resemble the coronavirus; what will this year’s ominous guest-of- honor look like?
Cucui has an important role as part of the festival. He is the keeper of the box that contains the community’s penas—worries, fears, and sorrows. Attendees write down their troubles, anxieties, and hurts on slips of paper provided at the festival, who collects these heavy burdens and will relieve you of these concerns.
At 4 pm, Cucui is set alight sending all these worries and sorrows away into puffs of smoke! If you have been dragging around the extra weight of problems from the past year, it is time to let them go! Thank you to the Questa Volunteer Fire Department, who will be on-site to oversee the annual burning and be a part of the event.
With COVID-19 modifications, you have a choice of observing the burning of Cucui and the penas from the Market site while observing social distancing and wearing your mask, or you can watch this part of the event from home, as it will be live-streamed via the Visit Questa Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/VisitQuestaNM.
The Cambalache Festival is sponsored by the Questa Economic Development Fund. If you have questions about this year’s festival, please contact Dina@QuestaEDF.com or call (575) 586-2258.